“Like on another planet”: Sabalenka’s victory under a neutral flag

Updated 01/29/2023 11:07 AM

  • Arina Sabalenka is the primary neutral tennis participant to win a Grand Slam match.
  • The 24-year-old Belarusian gained the Australian Open.
  • He celebrates his victory with pleasure.

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On the day after her greatest victory, Arina Sabalenka had a nice picture shoot. The extroverted tennis participant was photographed in an embellished pink gown and blue excessive heels on the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, at all times near her: the silver trophy for profitable the Australian Open Grand Slam. “I like taking photos, particularly as a Grand Slam champion. This is the perfect morning in my life,” the Belarusian beamed with pleasure on Sunday. “I nonetheless really feel like I’m on another planet.”

Although her identify is written on the trophy, Sabalenka’s pleasure was not dampened by her nation, Belarus. Before the laborious court docket match in Melbourne, he mentioned that he felt like a neutral athlete, “the place he got here from”. But none of that mattered anymore after a fortnight of success that ended with a completely satisfied ending in Saturday’s thrilling finale.

“I feel everybody remembers that I’m a Belarusian participant,” she mentioned after defeating Kazakhstan’s Wimbledon winner Yelena Rybakina 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 within the senior ultimate. Because of the warfare of aggression in Ukraine, Sabalenka, like all Belarusian and Russian athletes, was allowed to play under a neutral flag solely after they skipped Wimbledon six months in the past. It was “scary,” he mentioned in late December, “as a result of nobody helps the warfare, nobody.”

Sabalenka is presently ranked second on the planet

But the 24-year-old refused to let emotions of satisfaction and even revenge get in the way in which. Sabalenka hugged the trophy like a child. After the large victory, he didn’t go away the everlasting smile on his face, which additionally defeated himself. He needed to reward himself with a “good pizza” and “numerous sweets,” “perhaps a little champagne,” Sabalenka informed a information convention. “It’s good, it may be enjoyable,” he laughed as he sipped a glass of glowing alcohol.

The first “Grand Slam” match of the yr ended with a worthy winner. Out of her whole of 524 factors, the very dominant Sabalenka completed with 247 straight wins. In a thrilling ultimate, he was unfazed by a dropping first set, the place he confirmed a weak serve that he thought he had already gained. Before, his feelings typically guided him, however now it is the opposite manner round. “Every time I’m going by robust instances on the sector, I’m reminded that I can deal with something.”

Along along with her first main title and prize cash of round €1.95 million, Sabalenka may sit up for shifting as much as second on the planet rankings. Now he needs to expel chief Iga Swiatek from Poland. Winning a main is “not the very last thing on my checklist,” Sabalenka mentioned. But he needs to spend the following few days not in Belarus, however in his adopted dwelling of Miami.

Russian Rybakina, who has been enjoying for Kazakhstan since 2018, additionally carried out effectively within the ultimate match. “What a nice finale!” “This is the tennis of the long run: laborious groundstrokes, initiation, nice serve,” nationwide coach Barbara Rittner informed Eurosport. (Jörg Soldwisch, dpa/tas)


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