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Djokovic, Sabalenka, Gauff sound warning ahead of AO 2023

  • Matt Trollope

Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka scooped the Adelaide International 1 titles on Sunday with resonant displays in the South Australian capital.

At the same time, across the Tasman Sea in Auckland, Coco Gauff was another prominent player securing a trophy in the lead up to AO 2023.

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Sabalenka and Gauff – whose previous titles both came in May 2021 – are two players considered among the biggest threats to world No.1 and Australian Open favourite Iga Swiatek.

Sabalenka pushed Swiatek to three sets in the 2022 US Open semifinals, before avenging that loss to the Polish star at the same stage of the WTA Finals.

She has now won 16 of her past 22 matches, after winning her 11th career title in Adelaide.

Aryna Sabalenka celebrates with the trophy after winning the Adelaide International 1 final over Linda Noskova.

“I just feel that I'm ready to show my best and I ready for big fight. That's everything what I feel right now,” Sabalenka said after beating Czech rising star Linda Noskova 6-3 7-6(4) in the Adelaide final.

“I just want to control what I can control and just do my best. Hopefully I can get through this first round (at the Australian Open).

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“I think I'm a different player right now… I'm older. Maybe a little bit smarter, little bit calmer on court. Just a little bit of everything changed.”

For Gauff, Auckland marked her first appearance in a tournament final since Roland Garros in 2022, where she lost to the dominant Swiatek.

Gauff was dominant herself on Sunday, allowing opponent Rebeka Masarova just two games in a 6-1 6-1 final.

Earlier in the tournament she beat Wimbledon semifinalist Tatjana Maria and AO 2020 champion Sofia Kenin, dropping just 22 games across five straight-sets matches.

"I couldn't ask for a better start to my season,” Gauff said.

“It's my first title on hard courts since I was 15, so it's lovely to finally do well on a surface that I love."

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Like Gauff, Sabalenka did not drop a set in Adelaide.

Someone who did was Djokovic – but that almost made his win at The Drive even more meaningful.

Facing rising American star Sebastian Korda in Sunday night’s final, Djokovic lost the first set, and was forced to save a match point in the second, before outlasting his younger opponent in the third.

Djokovic repeatedly pointed to his head as he sealed a 6-7(8) 7-6(3) 6-4 win in three hours and nine minutes – his 92nd career title and 34th straight match win in Australia. 

Novak Djokovic again proved his mental toughness as he saved a match point to beat Sebastian Korda in the Adelaide International 1 final. (Getty Images)

“I think in the tough days, when you're not maybe striking the ball, not feeling your best on the court, and you win the match, particularly if it's like later stages of the tournament, like the finals, it just gives you even more confidence and satisfaction for achieving that,” Djokovic said. 

“Five great matches. Second round, 7-6 7-6, tough two tiebreakers against (Quentin) Halys, who is playing very well. Then I had (Denis) Shapovalov, (Daniil) Medvedev and Korda, who is on fire, playing some high-level tennis, striking the ball amazingly. 

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“I couldn't ask for a better preparation and lead-up to Australian Open.

“Of course, Australian Open is the biggest reason why I'm here in Australia, but at the same time I want to win every tournament I play on.”

World No.5 Djokovic, who has won 24 of his past 25 matches, is on a 21-match winning streak at Melbourne Park.

He has not tasted defeat at the Australian Open since losing to Hyeon Chung in the fourth round in 2018.