Rybakina tops Sabalenka to win Brisbane International; Dimitrov gets 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.
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.
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.
It capped a dominant week for Rybakina, who conceded just 15 games across five straight-set wins and was the 24-year-old's 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.
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
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.
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.
“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.”
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