As Aryna Sabalenka unpacked her Australian Open victory on Saturday night, the Belarusian gazed into the glimmers bouncing off the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.
But it took several moments for the breakthrough grand slam champion to realise her name had already been engraved in the trophy.
When the finely detailed letters hit her between the eyes during a panel interview on the Nine broadcast, her reaction was priceless.
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“Oh my god, I already have my name!” Sabalenka said, pointing to her name with a beaming smile.
The 24-year-old’s magnificent reaction drew laughter and cheers from her co-panellists and a gathering of spectators.
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“This is just unbelievable,” Sabalenka added.
“Oh my god. All these names!”
Watch the Australian Open live and free on the Nine Network: Channel 9, 9Gem and 9NOW.
The broadcast zoomed in on the trophy, showing Naomi Osaka’s 2021 win, Ash Barty’s 2022 victory and Sabalenka’s triumph.
“It’s more official when it’s engraved, isn’t it?” quipped presenter James Bracey, who proceeded to remind Sabalenka that she had met Barty in her first Australian Open match.
Sabalenka clinched the opening set of that 2018 match in a tiebreak, but she dropped the next two sets as she tumbled out of the tournament.
“I felt like, ‘Oh my god, I think I will never get it’,” Sabalenka recalled.
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Sabalenka’s Australian Open win followed a 2022 campaign marred by serving woes.
She tallied a tour-topping 428 double faults, 139 more than second on the list, and continued to be haunted on Saturday night.
She double faulted to cough up a championship point, before finishing the match with seven double faults beside her name.
“It was a really tough, tough year, and it was really tough moments last year,” Sabalenka said.
“We worked so hard and right now I’m just super proud of myself and proud of my team that they’ve been there for me.
“They supported me and we worked super hard to get through this challenge.
“Just super happy right now.”
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