MELBOURNE, Australia -- Saturday's showdown between World No.5 Aryna Sabalenka and reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina will be a primetime showcase of power tennis. From each player's coaching box, the view is the same, which means the margin of victory will come down to who can hold their nerve and their serve. 

Three thoughts ahead of the Rybakina vs. Sabalenka showdown

"Elena is a good rhythm player, so she can feed off the pace of Aryna also," said Stefano Vukov, Rybakina's coach of four years. "I think on the backhand side we are a little bit stronger. 

"But as a matchup, it's gonna be a lot of mistakes, a lot of winners, I'm sure about that, from both sides because there is going to be a lot of pressure.

"I think who serves well tomorrow goes through. That's my feeling."

Rybakina goes into the match with an 0-3 career record against Sabalenka. On paper that would give Sabalenka the edge, but Sabalenka's coaching staff, led by Anton Dubrov and physical trainer Jason Stacy, is intent on throwing history out of the window.

"We could say that it was really hard all the time, all the time three sets," Dubrov said. "I think it was just like one break per set almost all the time.

"Right now I would say it's a new match. They played last time at Wimbledon two years ago. I would say it's just like another life. What's happened afterward? Aryna lost her serve. Then she found the serve. Meanwhile, Rybakina won a Slam. They both came here from different directions."


Everything you need to know about the Australian Open final

As Sabalenka readies to play her first major final, Dubrov is urging his charge to take control and not hope for errors. 

"I would say it's going to be about who [will] keep this focus to be more concentrated on her own game and not trying to catch the opponent on the errors. It's more about who can keep going. Because there will be some opportunities on return, for sure, but it's about if you're gonna do it or you're gonna wait. 

"I think it's gonna be like this, maybe a few points that might be deciding. That's what I think."

Sabalenka has been untouchable since the season began, winning all 20 sets she has played in 2023. The serve that crippled her game last year has more than stabilized this year. Despite serving fewer aces than Rybakina going into the final, Sabalenka has been broken only six times. Rybakina has been broken 10 times. 

Dubrov and Stacy are hoping that Sabalenka can reap what has been sown over the last years. The word "humility" was used frequently by her coaching team to describe how she handled last year's string of embarrassing serving performances. They say she turned her season around by confronting the issues -- both technical, mental and emotional -- head on. 

"What happened last year was actually maybe even a positive for Aryna," Dubrov said. "Like she's kind of understands that [even if] one of her biggest weapons is missing, she's still fighting with anyone. So she understands that she's actually tough. 

"She can serve like 25 double faults and she's still gonna be in the third set fighting like 5-All. That's what happened I think against [Coco] Gauff in Canada. 

"In the end of the year, once she got this new motion of serve and this toughness before, all together, it's like she understood that actually she's a pretty great player. She can compete no matter what's happened with her."


For Rybakina and Vukov, Saturday's match is familiar territory. Just seven months ago, Rybakina rallied to defeat No.2 Ons Jabeur in three sets to win her first major. If Rybakina wins in Melbourne, she will join No.1 Iga Swiatek in splitting the last four majors. At 23 years old, Rybakina has already guaranteed her spot in the Top 10 on Monday. 

Vukov began working with Rybakina when she was well outside the Top 200. He guided her to a Wimbledon title and celebrated by tattooing her name on his right bicep. 

There are no plans for a similar celebration if Rybakina comes through on Saturday. 

"Absolutely not," Vukov said. "[Wimbledon is] my favorite event. I'm not saying Australian Open is not my favorite tournament, but Wimbledon is a tournament that I have been dreaming about to win as a player."

Australian Open: Rybakina holds off Azarenka to reach second Slam final