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Australian Open tennis: Sabalenka beats Rybakina for first Grand Slam

Aryna Sabalenka (pictured) of Belarus totaled beat Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan to clinch her first career Grand Slam singles title at the 2023 Australian Open on Saturday in Melbourne. Photo by James Ross/EPA-EFE
1 of 6 | Aryna Sabalenka (pictured) of Belarus totaled beat Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan to clinch her first career Grand Slam singles title at the 2023 Australian Open on Saturday in Melbourne. Photo by James Ross/EPA-EFE

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Aryna Sabalenka fired 17 aces and 51 winners en route to a three-set victory over Elena Rybakina in the 2023 Australian Open women's singles final Saturday in Melbourne. She claimed a $2.06 million prize for her efforts.

The 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 triumph also resulted in the Belarusian's first career Grand Slam title. Sabalenka collapsed to the ground with joy after Rybakina sent a forehand return beyond the baseline for the final point of the two-hour, 28-minute match.

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"I want to congratulate Elena for an incredible two weeks," Sabalenka said during the trophy presentation on ESPN. "She is such a great player. Of course, we are going to have many more battles, hopefully in the finals of Grand Slams."

Rybakina, the Wimbledon 2022 champion, totaled nine aces, 31 winners and converted 2 of 7 break point opportunities. The No. 22 seeded Kazakh also totaled 25 unforced errors, including 13 in the final set.

"I felt really good playing here and had goosebumps," Rybakina told the crowd at Rod Laver Arena. "When everyone was cheering for us, it felt unbelievable. I'm looking forward to coming back next year."

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Sabalenka, the No. 5 seed, held serve in the first game of the match. Rybakina also held her first serve, but broke Sabalenka in the third game to take a 2-1 edge. She also held her serve in the fourth and broke Sabalenka again in the ninth game en route to a first-set triumph.

Sabalenka responded with a break point conversion in the third game of the second set to spark a 4-1 edge. She held the rest of her serves in that set to tie the match.

Rybakina and Sabalenka each held their serves through the first six games of the third and final set. Sabalenka then broke Rybakina in the seventh game to take command of the match. She also won the eighth game for a 5-3 lead, which she did not surrender.

No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece will take on No. 4 Novak Djokovic of Serbia for the men's singles title Sunday in Melbourne. That match will air at 3:30 a.m. EST on ESPN and ESPN+. An encore presentation will air at 9 a.m. Sunday on ESPN2.

Djokovic will attempt to tie Spaniard Rafael Nadal's record for the most Grand Slams (22) in men's tennis history. Tsitsipas is attempting to win his first career Grand Slam. He also could move into the No. 1 spot in the ATP Tour rankings with a victory over the favored Djokovic.

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