Rybakina blitzes Sabalenka to win Brisbane International. Dimitrov wins first title in six years


BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Elena Rybakina claimed her sixth career title with a 6-0, 6-3 rout of top-seeded Aryna Sabalenka to win the the Brisbane International in a perfect tune-up for the first major of 2024.

Sabalenka, who had won five of her seven previous meetings against the fourth-seeded Rybakina, had no answer Sunday to the world No.4’s laser-like groundstrokes and deft touches at the net as Rybakina dominated the final and stamped her credentials as one of the favorites for the upcoming Australian Open.

Almost a year after contesting the Australian Open final, where Sabalenka beat Rybakina in a tight three-setter, the tables were turned dramatically as the 2022 Wimbledon winner broke Sabalenka three times in a one-sided first set of just 24 minutes on Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane.

The top-seeded Sabalenka finally got on the scoreboard when she broke serve in the ninth game, but Rybakina broke back immediately for a 3-1 lead in the second.

Sabalenka held serve for the first time in the match in the 11th game but it was too little too late as Rybakina nervelessly closed out the win on her first match point opportunity when the reigning Australian Open champion pushed her attacking forehand wide.

It capped a dominant week for Rybakina, who conceded just 15 games across five straight-set wins and was the 24-year-old sixth career title and first since Indian Wells last year.

“I’d like to say congrats Aryna for a great week and great season last year and hopefully we meet in Melbourne,” Rybakina said. “Despite the score, it’s always tough to play against you, we always push each other.”

The loss ended Sabalenka’s streak of 15 wins on Australian soil, including a title run in Adelaide last year before her Grand Slam breakthrough at Melbourne Park, but the world No.2 made light of a rare heavy defeat.

“I don’t know where to start … that was an interesting match, great job, thank you for those three games to at least make it look like a fight,” Sabalenka said post-match. “Couple of words to my team – you did a bad job today. 6-0 6-3, that’s all your fault guys.

“It is how it is. We showed some great tennis and hopefully we’ll do better at the Australian Open.”

The final was the the first to feature the top two seeds in Brisbane since 2015, when No. 1 Maria Sharapova held off No. 2 Ana Ivanovic in three sets.

Dimitrov claims first title in six years

Second-seeded Grigor Dimitrov beat top-seeded Holger Rune 7-6 (5), 6-4 in a tightly-fought men’s final for his first tour title in six years.

It was Dimitrov’s, ranked 14th, ninth career title and his first since the ATP finals in 2017, the same year he won his first Brisbane title.

“It’s been a while since I held one of these, I’m a little emotional,” Dimitrov said at the trophy presentation. “It’s difficult to describe. Holger, what a competitor.

“My love affair started 11 years ago in Brisbane and I think it continues.”

Dimitrov hit 33 winners and only 14 unforced errors, with Rune saving break points eight times before Dimitrov finally cracked his serve on the ninth opportunity to deny him a fifth title in the 2 hours and 13 minutes encounter.

The third game of the first set was indicative of the close struggle. Rune held serve in a game of nine deuces and seven game points, finally fending off a break point at 2-1, 30-40 in a rally of 33 shots.

The 32-year-old Dimitrov finally broke Rune in the eighth game of the second set to lead 4-3. Rune saved two match points in the next game, in which he had a time violation and served an ace at 30-40.

Dimitrov then took the next game to love, serving his eighth ace of the match and finishing on his third match point. Rune had nine aces but also three double faults. The eighth-ranked 20-year-old was bidding for his fifth career title.

“Congrats to Grigor who played an amazing tournament,” Rune said. “I think we have a lot to build on after this week and hopefully we can go one step further in the Australian Open.”


AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis

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