Sabalenka sends Australian Open warning with Adelaide triumph
Aryna Sabalenka fired an Australian Open warning shot Sunday by winning her first title since 2021 at the Adelaide International, beating rising Czech teenager Linda Noskova 6-3, 7-6 (7/4).
The world number five ended a slump of three consecutive defeats in WTA finals with victory in one hour and 43 minutes in torrid 36 Celsius (96.8 Fahrenheit) conditions at Memorial Drive.
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.
Second seed Sabalenka, a holder of 10 titles, added one more to her career total as she put her experience to good use, ending the week without losing a set.
She last lifted a trophy at the Madrid Masters in May 2021.
"Congratulations to this young lady (Noskova) on an amazing week," Sabalenka said at the victory ceremony.
"I think you have an amazing future. It's 100 percent that we will have more finals together.
"Thanks to my team for being here today, for everything," she added. "It's been an amazing week and I enjoyed every second."
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 in 2007.
The victory capped an impressive start to 2023 for Sabalenka, who continued the strong late-season form that saw her make the decider at the WTA Finals.