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Report: Sabalenka back on song with businesslike win over Rogers

  • Dan Imhoff

Women's singles second round

A dominant Aryna Sabalenka is serving notice after a sixth straight win Down Under.

Following the serving woes of last summer, the fifth seed was humming along smoothly in 2023 with American Shelby Rogers a 6-3 6-1 second-round victim at the Australian Open on Thursday.

MORE: All the scores for AO 2023

The build-up

After concerted hours back on the practice court, the serving yips that blighted Sabalenka's Australian summer last season have been addressed.

The 24-year-old firmed up as a genuine contender to land her first major at Melbourne Park this year with her 11th career title at the Adelaide 1 event, but the 51st-ranked Rogers was not entirely shy on matchplay after she qualified for both events in the South Australian capital.

Sabalenka claimed both encounters between the pair last year, at 's-Hertogenbosch and Cincinnati, but the latter was a drawn-out tussle over two hours and 35 minutes.

With wins over the likes of Ash Barty, Serena Williams and Simona Halep, Rogers was at her most dangerous on this surface. 

Story of the match

Flustered early at her inability to convert on break point chances, Sabalenka quickly brushed off the setback and set about reeling in a 1-3 deficit.

Serving improvements aside, Sabalenka admitted she had worked hard to better maintain her composure last season and it came to the fore against the American.


Playing the match increasingly on her terms, Sabalenka's firepower was no less impressive, despite her move to more controlled aggression, as she reeled off five straight games for the opening set.

The relentless pressure she applied when hugging the baseline was telling.

DRAW: Australian Open 2023 women's singles

She prised open the match with a double break when Rogers hit a third double fault, and a fourth two games later off the American's strings set Sabalenka up to close out the 87-minute affair on her 32nd winner.

Key stats

The chink in Sabalenka's game this time last year had been ironed out to become among her most reliable weapons on Thursday.

Shelby Rogers (Getty Images)

She secured 74 per cent of first-serve points and did not hit a double fault.

Her measured aggression still packed a mighty punch as she finished with 13 forehand and 14 backhand winners, and kept her unforced error count to 18.

What it means for Sabalenka

The fifth seed has conceded just nine games to reach the third round for the third straight year.

She will face Elise Mertens – the Belgian with whom she won the Australian Open women's doubles trophy two years ago.

"It's going to be a great battle either way," Sabalenka said. "I've played a lot of matches against Mertens and it was always tough battles against Davis."

With Australian-born fitness trainer Jason Stacy in her camp, she joked there may have been an ulterior motive at play.

"Actually this is the only reason why I work with an Australian fitness coach," she said. "Just to make sure all the restaurants will be easier to book."

What next for Rogers?

A two-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, Rogers went one better than her first-round exit last year and despite salvaging just four games, kept Sabalenka on her toes.

"I kind of didn't expect her playing on that great level [in the previous two meetings]," Sabalenka said.

"Today I expected a great level from her. That's why I stayed focused from the beginning to the end and probably that's why I was able to win this one in two sets, but yeah, always tough matches against her."

The 30-year-old Rogers now turns her attention to her women's doubles campaign alongside Irina-Camelia Begu.

They meet third seeds Giuliana Olmos and Gabriela Dabrowski first up.