MELBOURNE, Australia -- Reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina leaves Melbourne Park with her head held high and her eyes firmly focused ahead. The 23--year-old narrowly lost out on a second major title in seven months after losing to World No.5 Aryna Sabalenka 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the Australian Open final on Saturday night.
"I think Aryna raised her level in the second set," Rybakina said. "She played really well, aggressive, a bit less mistakes. I should have been also more aggressive in some moments.
"I had some chances, for sure, to turn it around. But she played really well today. She was strong mentally, physically."
Thank you, Elena 👏— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 28, 2023
A super fortnight from the No.22 seed. #AusOpen • #AO2023 pic.twitter.com/xE8mZ255Zr
Having paved her way to her second major final with wins over World No.1 Iga Swiatek, Jelena Ostapenko, and Victoria Azarenka, Rybakina is set to make her Top 10 debut on Monday.
"I don't think I'm going to feel different just because of the ranking," Rybakina told reporters after the Australian Open final.
"But for sure it's going to be different at the smaller tournaments, I would say. I'm going to be seeded. Maybe in some tournaments I'm not going to play first round. So of course there is some benefits out of this."
After a whirlwind run to the Wimbledon title last summer, Rybakina said replicating the feat of a major final so soon after was a big confidence booster.
"I'm trying to not think about expectations and everything," Rybakina said. "Still after a great pre-season like this I was thinking I should show it on the court. Then, of course, the results are going to be there.
"I think in the end it's just confidence to go forward, to keep on working. I feel now good physically also. I know if I'm going to keep on working, the results are going to be there."
"That's the goal, to be in the second week of all the Grand Slam, to play finals."
Tennis of the highest quality 🙌— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 28, 2023
What a point!@wwos • @espn • @eurosport • @wowowtennis • #AusOpen • #AO2023 pic.twitter.com/0sypghNPSP
While her efforts over the course of the high-quality, intense, 2-hour and 28-minute final left her aching all over, Rybakina was proud to be a part of one of the best major finals in recent years.
"I would say that not many girls can put me really under the pressure. Against her, it's not easy because she has a great serve and she plays really aggressive. Her ball is coming very heavy. There is maybe few girls who plays like this.
"I just know that I have to serve well. It's also pressure in the end. As soon as I have an opportunity, take it. Today I had some opportunities. Didn't take. The match didn't go my way.
"I think quality of the match was good. It was very powerful game from both of us. I think it's just not many powerful players there is on tour. Maybe this kind of [tennis is] pushing the other players to be more aggressive.