The Australian Open Women's Singles reaches its conclusion on Saturday morning and Racing Post Sport tennis expert Joe Champion offers his verdict on the Melbourne Park final.
Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina will battle for the Australian Open crown and Joe has served up three tasty wagers for tennis punters to get stuck into.
|What||Australian Open women's singles final: Elena Rybakina v Aryna Sabalenka|
|Where||Melbourne Park, Melbourne|
|When||08:30, Saturday 28th January|
|How to watch||Eurosport and Discovery+|
|Odds||Aryna Sabalenka 4/5, Elena Rybakina 11/10|
After two weeks of action, Sabalenka and Rybakina will go head-to-head for the first Grand Slam title of the season with the former looking a solid bet as the 4/5 favourite to lift the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.
This is new territory for Sabalenka, who is competing in her first Grand Slam singles final, while Rybakina has previous experience in her locker having won Wimbledon last season.
However, that doesn't tell the whole story. Rybakina's Wimbledon win came from out of the blue, and although she has demonstrated that she belongs at the top table with a series of excellent Melbourne performances, it's Sabalenka who has had by far the most prolific career to date at WTA level.
The Belarusian, who will return to her career-high ranking of two in the world regardless of the result of the final, has claimed 11 WTA Tour titles, her opponent just three, although Wimbledon remains the biggest prize that either has won.
Sabalenka lost all three finals she contested in 2022 but put those doubts to bed by winning the Adelaide International 1 title without dropping a set, part of a run of 2-0 victories which have continued in six matches in Melbourne over the last fortnight.
While she remains a brutal baseliner, Sabalenka's superior movement could be key to taking Rybakina out of her comfort zone and their three previous meetings have all gone the way of the Belarusian, including their only previous Grand Slam clash at Wimbledon in 2021.
Rybakina was successful in an exhibition match in December, but the competitive meetings suggest Sabalenka has the edge, and her recent interviews give the impression that she is starting to embrace the mental challenge of competing for the biggest titles - something which has undoubtedly held her back in the past.
While Sabalenka looks the likelier winner, everything points to a tight, tense Melbourne Park finale between two players who are closely matched.
Sabalenka has blown away the opposition in Australia but it's possible to pick holes in her run to the final. She has only faced two seeded players - her former doubles partner Elise Mertens and Olympic champion Belinda Bencic - and was pushed in the opening set by Magda Linette in the semi-finals.
A lack of matches against top-class rivals could catch Sabalenka cold, while the same can't be said of Rybakina, who saw off world number one Iga Swiatek before taking down Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka on her run to the final.
Sabalenka has edged all three previous meetings but Rybakina has caused the 24-year-old plenty of problems in the past, winning a set on each occasion, a statistic which suggests that Sabalenka's run of 2-0 wins could come to an end.
The pair also went to a deciding tiebreak in December's exhibition contest while Rybakina required three sets to defeat Ons Jabeur in the 2022 Wimbledon final.
This one could easily go the distance, so 11/10 appeals about a three-set contest, while any punters looking for a bit more juice in the match betting could consider backing Sabalenka 2-1 at 11/4.
Australian Open: The journey to the women's final
Rybakina's run to another Grand Slam final has been built on solid ground strokes and a booming serve which has seen her rack up 45 aces from six matches, comfortably the highest tally in the women's tournament.
Only Caroline Garcia served more aces than Rybakina on the WTA Tour last term as the Kazakhstani hammered in 370 unreturnable deliveries from 57 matches and she'll need to serve at a high level if she's to neutralise her Belarusian opponent.
Rybakina has served superbly in Australia, particularly in the latter rounds, firing in 11 aces against Ostapenko and nine against Azarenka despite both matches being settled in straight sets.
Sabalenka is no slouch from the service line either with only Rybakina and Karolina Pliskova serving more aces in Melbourne, so the total aces count looks capable of hitting at least 15, particularly if this becomes a long match.
The pair combined for 20 aces at Wimbledon in 2021 and with the temperature forecast to be above 25C even as night falls in Melbourne, a similar outcome can be expected.