Flamboyant winner of her first Grand Slam, Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka considered that she had played her “best match” in the Australian Open final against Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina who “played unbelievable tennis”.
“I think it’s really my best match. She played unbelievable tennis. I fought so hard to get this tournament….. I think the tennis was great. I’m very happy that it wasn’t an easy match. I really enjoyed this battle,” she said at a press conference, a glass of champagne in hand.
The 24-year-old Belarusian beat the reigning Wimbledon champion 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to climb from number five to number two in the WTA rankings after winning her first Grand Slam final.
However, the previous road was not easy for this natural wonder, who conceded painful defeats in the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2021 and the 2021 and 2022 U.S. Open.
“I think it’s more enjoyable now after those tough matches. Now I feel like I needed those tough defeats to understand myself a little bit better,” she said.
“It was like a preparation for me. I’m actually glad that I lost those matches to now be a different player, a different Aryna,” she added.
The trophy ceremony was atypical, with no flag or anthem, as Russian and Belarusian tennis players are not allowed to compete representing their countries following the invasion of Ukraine.
“I think everyone knows I’m a Belarusian player,” she said, not wanting to make a big deal out of it.
With a Grand Slam title under her arm, now it’s time to celebrate with “a good pizza and lots of sweets.”
But the new Aryna, soon to be No. 2 in the ranking, warns that she wants more: “All tennis players have more or less the same goals. Winning a Grand Slam, of course, is not the last on the list.”