Sabalenka ends Noskova’s giant-killing run

WORLD number five Aryna Sabalenka has had her best Australian Open preparation yet, winning the WTA 500 Adelaide International by defeating giant-killer Linda Noskova. Though the 24 year-old Belarusian went in as strong favourite in the clash against the 102 ranked Czech qualifier, she could not afford to take the 18 year-old lightly.

Noskova enjoyed a stunning tournament, coming all the way through qualifying and having a tough draw to-boot in the main singles draw. She rolled third seed Russian and Top 10 talent Daria Kasatkina, Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka and top seed and world number two Ons Jabeur en route to her main WTA Tour final.

Though Sabalenka produced the goods when it counted, she was made to work for it, winning 6-3 7-6 in an hour and 44 minutes. She slammed home 12 aces to six, but served at just 42 per cent efficiency. Though her consistency on serve was erratic, when it went in, she was unbreakable, winning 29 of 31 points off her first serve, and saving all three break points against her. To the young gun’s credit, she also held firm off her serve, saving five break points and only conceding her serve once during the battle.

After failing to win a title in 2022, Sabalenka was able to kick-start her 2023 WTA Tour off on the perfect note taking out the first tournament of the year. Her 11th career title, Sabalenka is no stranger to starting the year well, having also won week one titles in 2019 and 2021 at Shenzhen and Abu Dhabi respectively.

“I think I’m a different player right now,” Sabalenka said post-match. “Maybe a little bit smarter, a little bit calmer on court. Just a little bit of everything changed.”

The world number five was not the only one breaking through at Adelaide, with Noskova becoming the youngest player to reach a WTA 500 final since Caroline Wozniacki won the New Haven title in 2008. While Sabalenka remains in fifth spot in the world rankings, she closes in on fourth placed Caroline Garcia who will be the top seed in the second Adelaide tournament this week following the withdrawal of world number one, Iga Swiatek.

“I think my serve helped me a lot, today especially,” Sabalenka said. “I think I didn’t give her much opportunities on my serve. I was able to put her under pressure on her serve. So I think that’s why I won today.”

Noskova will move up to 56th in the world from her effort – a whopping 46 spots – and now will prepare for the Australian Open, by having to go through qualifying. Despite now moving into the automatic qualifying spots, the Czech 18 year-old will have to do it all again with the entry ranking spots determined prior to week one. Noskova – the second seed – will face Canadian Katherine Sebov in the opening round, with either Aussie Priscilla Hon a potential second round matchup.


Over in Auckland, teenage star Coco Gauff took full advantage of a weakened field to storm to the ASB Classic WTA 250 title 6-1 6-1 over Spanish qualifier Rebeka Masarova. Barely raising a sweat throughout the tournament, Gauff did not drop a set the entire campaign, with 6-4 the closest an opponent got. Between her final and semi-final, the American dropped a combined four games en route to a massive victory. Masarova was a surprise finalist, with the 23-year-old working her way up from qualifying and reaching the final ranked 130th in the world.

In Adelaide, former world number one Novak Djokovic fought through a tough encounter with rising American Sebastian Korda in his first tournament back in Australia for two years. The Serbian dropped the first set in an epic tiebreaker 10-8, before responding with a tiebreak win of his own in the second set, and coming away with the 6-7 7-6 6-4 victory in three hours and nine minutes. He weathered 15 aces off Korda’s racquet and won 83 per cent of his own service points breaking two times to one in or der to seal the win.

Meanwhile over in Pune, Tallon Griekspoor claimed his maiden ATP Tour title with a hard-fought three-set win over Benjamin Bonzi. Coming from behind, the Dutchman won in three sets, 4-6 7-5 6-3 in a match which lasted two hours and 16 minutes. Griekspoor, ranked 95th in the world was able to upset the 60th ranked Frenchman thanks to 17 aces and a first serve success rate of 79 per cent from 71 per cent efficiency. The maiden title saw Griekspoor move up to 61st in the world, as Bonzi edged inside the Top 50.

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