Aryna Sabalenka avoided an upset in her first-round match against Storm Sanders at the 2022 Australian Open on Tuesday. The second seed came from a set and break down to post a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 win after two hours and two minutes of play.
Entering into the match, Sabalenka, who’d failed to bag a win in the 2022 season after losing in the opening rounds of both tournaments she’d played before the Australian Open, looked to be struggling with the same problems still.
Her serve lacked its customary power and she struggled to time it, peppering double faults. Sabalenka’s faulty serving was also complemented by her erroneous shot-making even as Sanders played confidently hitting winners from both the baseline and at the net.
Australian Open: Aryna Sabalenka triumphant roar greets the evening session
Sanders posted a 4-1 lead after a double break in the first and it wasn’t until the seventh game that Sabalenka held her serve for the first time in the match.
The set shunted between the two players over the next couple of games as Sanders handed back the second break in the 10th game while trying to serve it out. But the Belarusian wasn’t able to capitalise and lost her serve right back, giving the Australian a second opportunity to serve out the set.
This time around, Sanders didn’t falter and grabbed the set and the lead in the match. The world no. 2 went down an early break in the second set and it seemed as though her wait to win her first match this season would be a while longer.
However, from the fourth game of the set, facing yet another break point, Sabalenka went about constructing a comeback. With seemingly nothing to lose, Sabalenka loosened up on her serve and it paid off. And while she was able to execute her serves well, she was also able to find the range of her shots that found the inside of the court instead of veering off for errors.
On the other side of the net, Sanders’ game started to unravel and it was she who found it difficult to find purchase, either on her serves or on her shot-making. From 1-3 down in the second set, Sabalenka won nine straight games in a row that not only saw her clinch the set and level the match but also claim a double break in the decider to go up 4-0.
Sanders fought back long enough to post two games in the third set but there wasn’t much that she could do as Sabalenka finished the match off on her terms in the eighth game of the set. A dozen double faults, 29 winners and 37 unforced errors summed up Sabalenka’s tally for the match.
In comparison, Sanders had 11 double faults, 24 winners and 31 unforced errors. Meanwhile, looking to make it to the round-of-32 at Melbourne Park, Aryna Sabalenka will take on Xinyu Wang next.