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Sabalenka sends Australian Open warning with Adelaide triumph

Aryna Sabalenka said she was ready for a “big fight” at the Australian Open after firing a warning shot Sunday by winning her first title since 2021 at the Adelaide International.

The world number five ended a slump of three consecutive defeats in WTA finals with a 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) victory against rising Czech teenager Linda Noskova in torrid 36 Celsius (96.8 Fahrenheit) conditions.

The Belarusian double-faulted on the first of three match points but sent over a serve winner on the second to wrap up the afternoon.

“I’m super happy with another title, it was a great week,” the winner said. “I enjoyed every moment here in Adelaide, I’m happy with my performance.

“My serve helped me a lot, today especially. I was able to put her under pressure on her serve. I think that’s why I won today.”

The second seed, a holder of 10 titles, added one more to her career total as she put her veteran’s experience to good use, ending the week without the loss of a set.

She last lifted a trophy at the Madrid Masters in May, 2021 and is optimistic about her Australian Open chances after her week in South Australia.

“I just feel that I’m ready to show my best. I’m ready for a big fight,” she said.

World number 102 Noskova, the 2021 Roland Garros junior champion, will rise towards the top 50 with her run to her maiden final, upsetting world number two Ons Jabeur and veteran Victoria Azarenka along the way. 

At 18, she was the youngest finalist at a WTA 500 event since Caroline Wozniacki at New Haven 2007.

“It was obviously a very tough match today. Aryna played just amazing,” Noskova said. “I didn’t have a lot of chances.

“I did have some break points, but she always served her way out of it. That was really tough to beat.”

The teenager added: “When I trust myself and my game, I can actually beat some of the best players; that’s really a great feeling.

“But I’m obviously going to have to develop my game. There are a lot of blind spots. There’s always things to work on.”

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