4 min read
Two weeks of action in Melbourne Park is coming down to the wire with two singles matches left. Can Elena Rybakina pick up her second Grand Slam, or will Aryna Sabalenka break through? Does Stefanos Tsitsipas have a chance at upending favorite Novak Djokovic?
The men’s semifinals were decided on Friday in Melbourne, and Djokovic is officially one win away from his 10th Australian Open crown. He defeated Tommy Paul and will face Tsitsipas after the Greek took out Karen Khachanov. But more to come on that matchup later.
The men will play on Sunday, while the women’s final will feature on Rod Laver Arena on Saturday (or Friday night in the U.S.). Let’s take a look at the odds for Rybakina vs. Sabalenka with Universal Tennis INSIGHTS.
(5) Aryna Sabalenka (UTR 12.86) vs. (22) Elena Rybakina (12.88)
INSIGHTS is calling a close one as 23-year-old Rybakina gets the slight 51% edge over Sabalenka. Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon champion, is looking to raise her first Australian Open crown, while Sabalenka is contesting her first final.
The 24-year-old Sabalenka has been in three major semifinals before, though never in Melbourne. She’s made some changes off the court that have paid off on it.
"I decided to stop working with a psychologist; I realized that nobody than me will help, you know?” she told press. “Hoping that someone will fix my problem, it’s not fixing it. I have to take this responsibility. I’m not working with psychologist anymore. I’m my psychologist!"
Mark your calendars 🗓️— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) January 26, 2023
Sabalenka vs. Rybakina.
Who will be crowned the champion? pic.twitter.com/bYVjFIKRQ4
Meanwhile, some have said Rybakina has struggled since making history as the first Kazakh to win the trophy at the All-England Club. But she reached a final in Slovenia and a semifinal in Ostrava before starting her season with a doubles final appearance in Adelaide. Keep in mind she received no points for her Wimbledon title, making her ranking and seeding, lower than it could be.
The Road to the Final
Sabalenka started the 2023 season by winning her 11th WTA title in Adelaide. In Melbourne, she has extended that win streak to 10 matches and yet to lose a set this year. Her wins have been over Shelby Rogers, Elise Mertens, Belinda Bencic, Donna Vekic, and Magda Linette. Linette was playing in her first Grand Slam semifinal at age 30.
The wait is over!— US Open Tennis (@usopen) January 26, 2023
Aryna Sabalenka is into her first Grand Slam final. pic.twitter.com/rR0fjIGcx4
Rybakina’s 2023 didn’t start as well: She went 1-2 in her two Adelaide events. Yet, at the first major of the year, she’s been unstoppable with wins over Danielle Collins, Swiatek, Jelena Ostapenko, and Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka was looking to reach her first Australian Open final in a decade since winning the title in 2012 and 2013.
Rybakina: "I already [won a Slam] once, and of course I got confident that I can do it again. I did really good preparation with the team. I'm not really surprised with the results. I'm happy.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 24, 2023
"I'm just hungry to work and improve more."#AusOpen pic.twitter.com/WmouJpwX5R
The Bottom Line
On the WTA Tour, Rybakina and Sabalenka have played each other on three occasions, but not since 2021, and Sabalenka has won all three times. Their recent meeting in Dubai last month at the 2022 World Tennis League (an exhibition event) produced an unusual scoreline, with Rybakina winning 0-6, 6-1, 10-6. Though Dubai didn’t count for ranking points, Rybakina did pick up two more very notable wins over Swiatek and Caroline Garcia.
Per INSIGHTS, Rybakina has the higher overall UTR Rating, but Sabalenka has the slight edge in hard-court UTR. The odds swing back in Rybakina’s favor for her three-month trending UTR and recent win-loss record.
It comes down to how each woman will handle the stage, and Rybakina has been here before, while Sabalenka is prone to outbursts. Even though Sabalenka has gotten the better of the Kazakh historically, the match is Rybakina’s to lose.
INSIGHTS PREDICTION: Universal Tennis INSIGHTS favors Rybakina at 51%.
•UTR Ratings and INSIGHTS probabilities as of 9:00 a.m. EST, January 27, 2023.