WTA Brisbane: Elena Rybakina ousts Australian player, has honest message for crowd

Rybakina defeated Olivia Gadecki in her Brisbane opener.

by Dzevad Mesic
WTA Brisbane: Elena Rybakina ousts Australian player, has honest message for crowd
© Getty Images Sport - Chris Hyde

Elena Rybakina and Aryna Sabalenka have made dominant starts at the Brisbane International, while Naomi Osaka exited the tournament following a tight three-set loss to Karolina Pliskova. 

Rybakina, seeded at No. 2, had a first-round bye at the tournament before taking on Australian qualifier Olivia Gadecki. In her first match of the new season, 2023 Australian Open runner-up Rybakina made a great start, beating Gadecki 6-4 6-1. 

Aryna Sabalenka, who is the top-seeded player at this year's Brisbane International edition, also got off to a commanding start to her campaign. On Wednesday, Sabalenka made a light work of world No. 52 Lucia Bronzetti, beating the Italian 6-3 6-0. 

Meanwhile, four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka's run ended with a very tight defeat. After starting her post-pregnancy comeback with a win over Tamara Korpatsch, Osaka suffered a tight loss to Karolina Pliskova as the Czech beat the Japanese 3-6 7-6 (4) 6-4.

Rybakina sees off Gadecki, has a message for the crowd

Going into the match, Rybakina was considered the strong favorite to beat Gadecki. But 124th-ranked Gadecki offered some strong resilience early on. 

In the opening nine games of the match, a bit surprisingly not a single break point was seen. But when the set reached its latter stage, the pressure mounted on Gadecki and Rybakina stepped up her game. With that being said, Rybakina earned three consecutive break points in the 10th game - which at the same time were three consecutive set points. Gadecki managed to save the first two set points but Rybakina converted her third set point to clinch the first set. 

After winning the first set, Rybakina got off to a fast start to the second as well, taking an early 3-0 lead. In the fourth game, Gadecki managed to serve out the game and end Rybakina's run of five consecutive games. But it didn't lead to a comeback or anything like that as Rybakina broke Gadecki again in the sixth game for a 5-1 lead. In the seventh game, Gadecki had her first break points of the match. But Rybakina saved three break points before converting her first match point to complete a comfortable two-set win.

After beating an Australian player in her Brisbane opener, Rybakina acknowledged she was aware that the crowd was rooting for a home player. Also, Rybakina thanked the crowd for being respectful and also showing support to her. "Thank you so much to everyone who came to watch our match. I know you probably wanted your player to win. But I felt the support. It was a really nice atmosphere," Rybakina said. The crowd responded by giving a round of applause to Rybakina. 

Elena Rybakina
Elena Rybakina© Getty Images Sport - Chris Hyde

Rybakina plays next against No. 13 seed Elise Mertens. When Rybakina and Martens meet, it is going to be their fifth meet. Going into their Brisbane match, Rybakina leads the head-to-head 3-1.

Sabalenka joins Rybakina in the Brisbane round-of-16

In the first game of the match, Sabalenka faced a break point but managed to save it and avoid going down by an early break. After the first five games went without a break, Sabalenka earned her first break point in the sixth game and realized it to take a 4-2 lead. Up by a break and serving for the set in the ninth game, Sabalenka had no problems closing out the set as the Belarusian converted her second set point.

After winning the first set, Sabalenka absolutely dominated the second set. In the second set, Sabalenka broke Bronzetti three times and didn't face a single break point en route to completing a two-set win.

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka© Getty Images Sport - Bradley Kanaris

In her next match, Sabalenka plays against Zhu Lin. In Brisbane, Sabalenka and Zhu will be meeting for the fourth time. So far, Sabalenka has dominated their head-to-head as the Belarusian owns a 3-0 head-to-head against Zhu. 

Osaka loses a tight battle in Brisbane

Osaka made the first move in the match against Pliskova, breaking the Czech in the second game for a 2-0 lead. However, Osaka's lead was short-lived as Pliskova got the break back instantly in the third game. After blowing an early first-set break, Osaka managed to break Pliskova again in the sixth game. This time, Osaka was able to hold on to her serve after claiming a break as the Japanese served out for the first set in the ninth game. 

After winning the first set, Osaka had a chance to go up by an early break in the second set as well but she missed out on three consecutive break points in the third game. As no more break points were seen in the set, the second set had to be resolved in a tie-break. In the second-set tie-break, Pliskova opened an early 4-1 lead before converting her second set point a few points later to send the match into a decider.

Following a lost tight second set, Osaka didn't make a good start to the third set as she lost her serve in the third game. After losing her serve, Osaka had a chance to quickly get back into the match but she missed out on two consecutive break points in the fourth game as Pliskova took a 3-1 lead. In the eighth game, Osaka had another break point but Pliskova again saved it to go 5-3 up. Osaka didn't manage to force any break points in the 10th game of the third set as Pliskova served out that game to love to complete her comeback win over Osaka. 

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka© Getty Images Sport - Bradley Kanaris

Against Pliskova, Osaka certainly had a shot at clinching a win and progressing into the Brisbane round-of-16. Unfortunately for Osaka, she didn't manage to come up big during a tight second set and she also didn't start well the third set. In Brisbane, Osaka and Pliskova were playing for the sixth game. Now, Pliskova owns a 4-2 head-to-head against Osaka. 

Although Osaka didn't manage to make a deep run in Brisbane, it was certainly a positive run for the Japanese, who made her post-pregnancy comeback at the Australian tournament. In her first match as a mom, Osaka defeated Tamara Korpatsch 6-3 7-6 (9) in the Brisbane first round. 

Now, Osaka will turn her focus to the Australian Open, where she is a two-time champion. Osaka didn't play at the Australian Open last year due to pregnancy. It remains to be seen how will Osaka do in her Australian Open return.

Wta Brisbane Elena Rybakina