Aryna Sabalenka Is A Problem - A Real Problem For Rest Of The Tour

Aryna Sabalenka Is A Problem - A Real Problem For Rest Of The Tour

by Nurein Ahmed

The smoke has cleared, the dust settled, and the emerging trend from this year's Australian Open women's tournament is that Aryna Sabalenka is rapidly becoming a problem.

Sabalenka captured her second Grand Slam title on Saturday, completing a first successful defense of the Australian Open women's title since 2013, emulating Victoria Azarenka. But unlike her compatriot, who stopped at two, Sabalenka is only just getting started.

Consistency is now Sabalenka's hallmark

At last year's Australian Open, it felt like a watershed moment when Sabalenka defeated Elena Rybakina to win her first major title. But the paradigm of women's tennis has been defined by too many flash-in-the-pan stories that it was feared Sabalenka could walk through the same itinerary.

To give just a few examples, the likes of Jelena Ostapenko, Bianca Andreescu, Sofia Kenin, and Emma Raducanu won a Grand Slam in recent years when the odds were stacked against them. But it only became symptomatic of something more sinister.

Ostapenko has probably fared a lot better, but she was not ranked in the world's Top 10 since 2018 until recently. Andreescu, Kenin, and Raducnau have dealt with varying afflictions in the years following their breakout successes.

But unlike the aforementioned band, Sabalenka never faded, nor did her career go into a tailspin. In fact, she checked every conceivable box of being the face of women's tennis. She will soon turn 26 and with the best years of her career patently ahead of her.

Since the start of the 2022 US Open, no woman has won more Grand Slam titles than Sabalenka. The same applies to match wins at the four most coveted tennis tournaments. Sabalenka has two major titles, a runner-up spot, and three semifinal finishes in her last six Grand Slam tournaments.

Are we looking at the "Modern Day Serena Williams?"

Shortly after routing Qinwen Zheng in the final to win back-to-back Australian Opens, former Wimbledon men's champion Pat Cash proclaimed Sabalenka as the modern-day Serena Williams.

Sabalenka has turned from a player who swung thoughtlessly for the fences to become a fearless and relentless shotmaker with unlimited composure in her ground game. Testament to this, she did not drop a single set during the fortnight in Melbourne.

She is only the fifth woman this century to win the Australian Open without "gifting" a set to an opponent. That's how colossal Sbalenka has become on a big stage. She doesn't lose sets but can only be profligate to hand them to her opponents.

23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams is the last woman who combined athleticism, power, and unmatched mental strength to defeat opponents. There is a new woman who embodies these attributes, and it is Sabalenka.

What next for the seemingly unstoppable Sabalenka?

One of the most glaring observations from Sabalenka's post-match interview was that her mentality had completely shifted. She was not satisfied with one Grand Slam title and talked about the "fear" that would envelop her in the event she didn't add to her Grand Slam collection.

With a point to prove, Sabalenka wants to win more, and the French Open is the next in her line of vision. Iga Swiatek & Co. better take notice because they have a problem they'll need to scour for a solution.


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