Tunisian World No. 2 Ons Jabeur has taken credit, albeit cheekily, for Aryna Sabalenka's Australian Open win over Elena Rybakina on Saturday (January 28).
In one of the best ladies' singles finals at Melbourne Park in recent memory, Sabalenka and Rybakina enthralled the Rod Laver Arena in a high-quality contest that last for two hours and 28 minutes.
The reigning Wimbledon champion drew first blood, taking the opener 6-4 before Sabalenka restored parity with a 6-3 win in the second set. In the decider, the Belarusian fifth seed rode a late break before serving out victory in the tenth game and joining the pantheon of Grand Slam winners.
"One of the reasons why Sabalenka won today. She practised with me ... well at least I like to think that."
Sabaleka will return to her career-best ranking of World No. 2, while Rybakina will make her top-ten debut at #10 next week. Jabeur, meanwhile, endured an early exit at Melbourne Park, losing in the second round in three sets to Marketa Vondrousova.
"I'm really happy that it wasn't an easy match" - Aryna Sabalenka after beating Elena Rybakina
Aryna Sabalenka ventured into unchartered territory when she beat Magda Linette on Thursday to reach her first Grand Slam final.
The 24-year-old faced a stern challenge from reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the final, who was within a set of doubling her Grand Slam tally. To her credit, Sabalenka fought her way back into the contest. After restoring parity, she survived a late fightback from Rybakina, needing four championship points to serve out the biggest victory of her career.
At the post-match press conference, the Belarusian acknowledged that her victory was no walk in the park and commended Rybakina's performance:
"I think it's really the best match (of my career), I would say it was," said Sabalenka. "She played unbelievable tennis. I fought so hard to win this one. I think tennis was great. I'm really happy that it wasn't easy match. I really enjoyed this battle."
Speaking about her evolution over the fortnight at Melbourne Park, Sabalenka said:
"I think during these two weeks I really was super calm on court, and I really believed in myself a lot, that my game will give me a lot of opportunities in each game to win this title."
With the win, Aryna Sabalenka extended her perfect start to the year to 11-0.