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Australian Open - Day 13 preview: Women's final the headline act

After a fortnight of fierce, competitive contests, just two women remain standing in the 2023 Australian Open as Elena Rybakina and Aryna Sabalenka prepare to do battle in Saturday's Melbourne Park final.

Reigning Wimbledon champion Rybakina will take aim at more Grand Slam silverware while Sabalenka, for so long a force at regular WTA level, finally gets the chance to compete on the biggest stage.

Bruising Belarusian favoured in a tight final contest

WhatElena Rybakina v Aryna Sabalenka
WhereMelbourne Park, Melbourne
When19:30, Saturday 28th January
How to watchNine and Stan Sport and bet365's Sports Live Streaming
OddsAryna Sabalenka 1.80, Elena Rybakina 2.10

Fifth-seed Sabalenka has already claimed a title this season with a victory at the first of two Adelaide International tournaments and the Belarusian has stormed through the Australian Open draw without dropping a set.

There's no denying that the big-hitting 24-year-old has enjoyed a charmed run to the final in Melbourne, beating just two fellow seeds, but the manner of those wins, all in straight sets, have been impressive.

Sabalenka, a serial underachiever at the top level, had steadily started to knock on the door in Grand Slams, reaching the semi-final of Wimbledon in 2021 and at the US Open in each of the last two seasons.

Physically, she has always looked capable of winning Grand Slam titles, but the Belarusian appears to be more mentally resilient now, something which Rybakina will look to put to the test in Saturday's final.

The pair have met on three previous competitive occasions, all of which Sabalenka has won, but all three were tight contests and that is reflected in the betting with Sabalenka available to back at 1.80 and Rybakina on offer at 2.10 in the To Win Match market.

Sabalenka, blessed with a bruising baseline game and possessing the better movement of the two, is yet to drop a set in Melbourne over the Australian Open fortnight and she also won 2-0 in all four Adelaide matches, so punters could be interested in a 2-0 win for her at 3.00.

This is unknown territory for the Minsk native, but she appears fully focused on the task at hand, and while a first Grand Slam final will come with obvious nerves, an 11-8 record in finals at WTA level suggests she knows how to cope with the big occasion.

And Sabalenka appears happy to embrace the tension, telling reporters: "I'm not going to do something extra. I think that's OK to feel a little bit nervous. It's a big tournament, a big final."

Wimbledon champion silencing the doubters

Sabalenka has had the better overall career to date but Rybakina has something she doesn't have - Grand Slam-winning experience - and the Kazakhstani will hope to put that to good use in Saturday's showpiece.

Rybakina, seemingly unhappy with being put on Court 13 in her first Australian Open match since becoming a Grand Slam champion at Wimbledon last July, has been playing with a point to prove in Melbourne.

Her lowly seeding (22nd), due in part to Wimbledon's decision not to award ranking points, also appears to have spurred her on as has a general desire to silence those who doubted her credentials at the top level.

The big-serving 23-year-old has undoubtedly had the tougher run to the final, beating former Melbourne finalist Danielle Collins, world number one Iga Swiatek, one-time Slam winner Jelena Ostapenko and two-time Melbourne heroine Victoria Azarenka in her last four matches.

Those clashes mean that Rybakina is the more battle-hardened of the pair heading into the final, something which could help swing the balance in her favour, and she is likely to pose Sabalenka with her biggest test of the tournament by some distance.

"It's going to be a tough battle. Maybe I will not have to serve that big, that fast, so it doesn't really matter the speed," said Rybakina when asked about her gameplan after her victory over Azarenka.

"The same on the baseline. Just to play more deeper and do the same thing, try to come forward, just to expect maybe longer rallies than usual," she said, hinting that this could become a battle from the baseline.

Rybakina may be a narrow underdog but that was the case when she defeated Ons Jabeur in the Wimbledon final, so it would be foolish for punters to write her off.

Aussie doubles duo bidding to emulate Special Ks

WhatRinky Hijikata/Jason Kubler v Hugo Nys/Jan Zielinski
WhereMelbourne Park, Melbourne
WhenFrom 21:00, Saturday 28th January
How to watchNine and Stan Sport and bet365's Sports Live Streaming
OddsH Nys/J Zielinski 1.73, R Hijikata/J Kubler 2.10

While the women's final headlines Saturday's order of play, the men's doubles final will take place afterwards with the Australian pair of Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler bidding to follow up Nick Krygios and Thanasi Kokkinakis's victory from 12 months ago.

While they might not share the same profile as 'the Special Ks', the wildcard team of Hijikata and Kubler have pulled off shock after shock to tee up a clash with Monaco's Hugo Nys and Poland's Jan Zielinski.

The Aussie duo, who had not played together before this tournament, will enjoy the backing of a boisterous Rod Laver Arena crowd and they are priced up at 2.10 to win the title with their opponents available at 1.73.

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