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Big Risks and Big Rewards for Aryna Sabalenka on the Australian Open

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It was tennis harking back to the big-serving, high-velocity duels between Serena and Venus Williams. It was also a major departure from last yr’s Australian Open, where Ashleigh Barty ended a 44-year singles drought for the host country by winning the title, putting her court craft and crisply sliced one-handed backhand to work before shocking the tennis world (and Australia) by retiring in March at age 25.

But Barty, now married to Garry Kissick and expecting their first child, has hardly avoided the Australian Open, making quite a few public appearances this yr and walking onto Rod Laver Arena before Saturday’s final with the Akhurst Memorial Cup in hand.

“I can truthfully look myself within the mirror and say I gave the whole lot to tennis, however it gave me back so way more in return,” she said in a recent interview. “And all that basically starts from the people I used to be surrounded with. A lot of my success is our success. It genuinely is.”

Sabalenka could relate to that on Saturday as she shared a post-victory moment along with her team after which watched from afar as her normally stoic coach, Anton Dubrov, put a white towel to his face and sobbed within the player box.

Sabalenka said she had never seen Dubrov cry and explained that last season, in February, as she struggled with the yips on her second serve and her confidence and reached a degree where she couldn’t even openly discuss the issue, Dubrov offered his resignation.

“There have been moments last yr when he said, ‘I feel I’m done, and I feel I cannot offer you something else, and you’ve to seek out another person,’” Sabalenka said in an interview with Nine Network. “And I said: ‘No, you’re not right. It’s not about you. We just need to work through these tough moments, and we’ll come back stronger.’”

Her performance on Saturday was incontrovertible proof that that they had succeeded, with the assistance of a biomechanical expert but additionally Sabalenka’s own resilience. She is 11-0 this yr and though she double-faulted seven times in the ultimate, including on her first match point, she also repeatedly shrugged off any jitters (and the palpable concern of the large crowd) and got here up with aces or service winners on subsequent serves.

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