Aryna Sabalenka had fixed her problematic serve – until her first Grand Slam final at the Australian Open.
It started ominously with the world No.5 serving a double fault on the opening point of the match against Elena Rybakina – and showing a rye smile as she started the biggest moment of her life with an issue that has troubled her before.
But sadly the serving issues didn’t stop their for Sabalenka, as she dished up five double faults in a first set she lost 6-4 to Rybakina.
MORE: Elena Rybakina vs Aryna Sabalenka, live score, updates, highlights for Australian Open final
With her Kazakh winning seven more points for the set, it just tells you how crucial the five double faults were for Sabalenka.
Sabalenka’s serve problems peaked during the Australian tennis swing last year, when she began serving underarm at the Adelaide International because she couldn’t hit a serve in play.
These issues translated across to the Australian Open, where she squeezed through in her first three matches, before being knocked out by Estonian veteran Kaia Kanepi in the fourth round.
However, Sabalenka worked hard at her serve through the duration of 2022 and began to see some serious results at the back end of the year, reaching the semi-finals of the US Open and the final of the WTA Finals.
After serving 440 double faults in 2022 – 151 more than any other player – Sabalenka realised she needed help fixing her delivery and was confident she has curbed the issue.
“I was, in that moment, open for whatever. I was just like, ‘Please, someone help me to fix this fucking serve,” Sabalenka said.
“I’m super happy that this thing with my serve happened to me before,” she said.
“Before I wouldn’t be really open for that. I would be like, ‘You know what, my serve is fine, I don’t want to change anything.’ Actually, even when my serve was working, it wasn’t really right.
“I’ve done a lot. I worked so hard. Even when my serve was, how did you say, ‘disaster’? I worked a lot on my serve. I kept trying, kept believing, kept changing.”
Sadly, the pressure of an Australian Open final has unhinged the serve of Sabalenka.
At the time of writing, Sabalenka has yet to serve a double fault in her first two service games of the second set.
But she has a long way to go to make up for losing the first set.