Australian Open 2023: Ten and not out for Novak as Sabalenka Soars

The few days after a slam are needed nowadays, just to relax and reflect as the momentum, history books and overall outlook for the sport shifts on its axis ever so slightly.

In short, we are in the same position as Wimbledon last year and it is a familiar one. The men’s game continues to be dominated by Djokovic [or more broadly, a member of the Big 3 well into their mid-30’s] and the women keep producing first-time champions with an exciting and varied skill set. Flushing Meadows a few month later seemed to turn that trend on its head again with the much hyped Alcaraz looking to have broken through with real purpose, and Iga Swiatek beginning a dominance of her own that the likes of Osaka or Barty had hinted at recently.

But here we are again; Djokovic never looked likely to fail in his quest for a tenth Australian Open, swatting aside decorated challenger after challenger with barely a set dropped or a hamstring hampered. The Serb has been likened recently to an alien from outer space, such is his resilience and mental strength. When you look at his record in slam finals it is hard to argue that he is by far the leader in this regard. Going gets tough? Crowd on your back? A real crunch moment of the match? Bet your bottom dollar that this man will come through.

It is truly a marvel to watch, even if the tennis itself and the accompanying eternity between points frankly isn’t.

The fiery, feisty and finely tuned Sabalenka has threatened to become a bit of a Wozniacki, alot of promise and a sustained high ranking but prone to meltdown or a costly choke come the final hurdle. There was never doubting the talent of the young prodigy, but mentally things were a bit too raw and her tactics too reckless.

These characteristics were present and correct against the silent and steely Wimbledon champ Rybakina [who rightly feels a tad underappreciated following her pointless SW19 win], the first set gifted to the Kazakh with another wild DF. But this was finally the time for Sabalenka to push through and tame her game.

I hope both continue to challenge in the year to come.


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