Rybakina sends ominous Aus Open message

REIGNING Australian Open runner-up Elena Rybakina produced a dominant performance over world number two, Aryna Sabalenka to secure the Brisbane International WTA 500 event yesterday. In a rematch of last year’s Australian Open final, it was the bridesmaid who toppled the bride, completely destroying the tournament favourite Sabalenka, 6-0 6-3.

Rybakina won the first eight games of the match and it looked like being a potential double bagel until Sabalenka finally won her first game via a break. It was as good as done and dusted by that stage though, with Rybakina holding on to break her opponent again, and finish the match off in just an hour and 13 minutes on court.

“Despite the score, it’s always tough to play against you,” Rybakina said post-match. “We always push each other and I think that’s great. We improve this way, so hopefully we continue.”

The victory snapped a 15-game winning streak in Australia for Sabalenka who prepares to defend her Australian Open crown starting in a week’s time. For the Kazakhstan talent – who improved her head-to-head with Sabalenka to 3-5 – she claimed her sixth career WTA Tour title.

While Sabalenka will take a rest before flying to Melbourne to prepare for the Australian Open, Rybakina will take up a spot at the Adelaide International this week where she is top seed.

“I didn’t have enough hours which we wanted to do the week before coming here because I got sick again,” Rybakina said. “This week was a bit unexpected with the result. It was still getting back to the shape, to recover from the illness.

“I think we see how it’s going to be in Adelaide. Of course, it’s different conditions. Hopefully, as I said, I continue to play well and feel good on the court.”

Coco Gauff celebrates her second successive ASB Classic trophy | Image credit: Getty Images

Coco a cut above in Auckland Classic

AMERICAN teenager Coco Gauff proved too good for her rivals this week in Auckland, winning her second consecutive ASB Classic yesterday. Winning her 10th straight match – and second straight title – at the tournament – Gauff’s only major challenge in the two seasons came yesterday from second seed, Elina Svitolina.

The Ukrainian became the first player to take a set off Gauff at the event, after closing out an opening set tiebreaker, 7-4. From there though, Gauff had what it took to break back, winning the last two sets 6-3 6-3 to claim a victory in two hours and 35 minutes on court, the American’s seventh title of her young career.

“I don’t know if I was expecting this result, but I’m really happy with how I managed to play today,” Gauff said post-match. “I think today level-wise was definitely not my best match or best level this week, but sometimes when you win when you’re not playing your best, it makes you feel more satisfied.”

Gauff served three aces to nil, but also produced seven double faults and had 47 per cent success rate off her second serve. Though that was a little shaky, she still won 72 per cent of her first serve points, while her opponent won 58 per cent. Her six breaks of serve to three, proved to be a key difference in the result.

The American will take a well-earned break heading into the Australian Open, though the world number three could be leap-frogged by Rybakina if she wins in Adelaide. Svitolina – who moved up three spots into 22nd in the world – will also have a break to prepare for the Australian Open.

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