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Melbourne magic: Sabalenka celebrates at Carlton Gardens

  • Gill Tan

Grand Slam success sits well with Aryna Sabalenka.

“I had just a little drink, a little sweet, we’ve been dancing, having fun, that’s how we celebrate,” said a smiling 25-year-old on Sunday morning, just hours after earning her crown as the Australian Open 2024 women’s singles champion.

"I have the craziest team."

MORE: Rod Laver Aryna - Sabalenka does the double

The world No.2 posted a video on TikTok of her team dancing with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup on Saturday night after defending her title to become the first back-to-back women’s singles champion since 2013. 

“Of course it was my idea,” she grinned. “I put them under pressure to make this video happen, I felt like we had to do it, we did it last year, so we’re going to keep doing it and I don’t know, I hope it’s for good luck right?”  

“We started the tournament with a dance, we finished it with a dance,” said the two-time Grand Slam champion, laughing.

Dressed in a mid-length white dress, a bright-eyed Sabalenka posed with her coveted trophy and sprayed champagne outside the Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton Gardens.

“There’s a lot of things to love about Melbourne,” she said. “I love the crowd, the people, the way they support me, that’s something unbelievable, and it’s so enjoyable to play in front of all of them – I think that’s the best thing about Melbourne and that’s why I think I play really well here.”  

As for the city itself?

“I love that there’s a lot of parks, it’s beautiful nature, a lot of great restaurants, great coffee,” said Sabalenka, listing many of the reasons people choose to live in Australia’s second-most populous city, after Sydney.  

Sabalenka, who did not drop a set en route to the AO 2024 title, admitted that earning her first major at Melbourne Park last year was more challenging.

“The first one was the hardest one, it’s more emotional, playing the first final was really emotional for me, it was [a] really tough battle,” she said. 

“Second was still hard, it’s another pressure, it’s other emotions, but if we’re talking about these two, I think the first one was the hardest one but this one still wasn’t easy.” 

The 25-year-old said she’s still digesting the fact that she was able to defend her AO 2023 title.  

"These couple of weeks been a bit of pressure for me, but since last year I kind of changed my mentality and my approach to tennis. 

“Since then it's [easier] to handle the pressure because we're having so much fun off the court, just trying to work hard when I'm on the court but off the court, just try to forget tennis life and stay away from it and then as soon as I am on the court, I am full on."

"It's been challenging but I'm super happy that I was able to focus on myself, on my game and on the things that I had to do," she said.

“After that match point, I felt relieved and it’s like, it’s time to breathe normal and take a step back, understand what just happened, rest a little bit and move on,” she smiled.

If all goes to plan, Sabalenka’s AO win can provide a springboard for greater success in the 2024 season. 

Sabalenka following her win on Saturday night

“It’s definitely something incredible, it definitely gives me much more belief I can do well in the Grand Slams, and it gives me this boost of energy for the rest of the season,” she said. 

She will no doubt be eager to add more majors to her collection and to reclaim the world No.1 ranking she held last September.

“I’m just happy that everything we’re working on in the preseason is working well and we’re just going to keep building it and keep doing better,” she said. 

“I love playing tennis, and [I’m] really enjoying doing my job.”