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Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina (left) and Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka will be contesting for the women's singles title in the Australian Open on Saturday. Image Credit: AFP

Melbourne: Elena Rybakina was described by her coach as “a sweetheart” and “super simple” to work with, but it masks a steely confidence which has propelled her into Saturday’s Australian Open final.

The 23-year-old is already a Wimbledon champion and made serene progress to her second Grand Slam final, where she will face Aryna Sabalenka.

Rybakina is so in the zone that she remained unbothered when shunted out to the hinterland of Court 13 for her first-round match at Melbourne Park.

Extraordinary snub

“I really don’t care on which court I play,” she said after an extraordinary snub by tournament organisers for a current holder of a major title. She is getting used to being overlooked.

Born in Moscow, Rybakina switched nationality to Kazakhstan in 2018 in return for financial and coaching assistance.

She has no regrets about the decision and said she felt the Kazakh fans accepted her at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

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Elena Rybakina is full of confidence as she heads into her second major final in seven months. Image Credit: AFP

Plenty of support

“I get a lot of support around the world, but mostly I think that it’s from Kazakhstan, for sure,” Rybakina told reporters this week.

“The first feeling where I really got a lot of support was at the Olympics… just receiving all the messages and everything.

“So I think it’s a little bit from everywhere, but mostly from Kazakhstan.”

The switch allowed her to play at Wimbledon last year, though she received no ranking points, which means her 22nd seeding left her flying under the radar at Melbourne Park.

She is rightly full of confidence heading into her second major final in seven months, after racing through the draw for the loss of just one set, dispatching world No 1 Iga Swiatek on the way.

Special talent

Her attitude and personality are what make her a special talent, according to her coach Stefano Vukov.

“She’s a wonderful girl. She listens, listens a lot. That’s very rare, I think,” Vukov told reporters on the eve of the final.

“She’s involved 100 per cent into the sport, into what she does. Very calm, stoic, but a sweetheart, definitely, with amazing family, amazing parents.

“No one really puts pressure on her. So super easy to deal with. Super simple girl.”

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Aryna Sabalenka has a powerful forehand, but lack of consistency in her serve could be a boon or a disadvantage in the final. Image Credit: Reuters

Experience a big factor

Vukov believes her run to the title at Wimbledon will give her the edge against the Belarusian fifth seed Sabalenka, who like Rybakina works off a power game.

“I think experience is a big factor. Once you go through the rollercoaster ride once, you know what to expect, more or less, emotionally,” he said.

Powerful player

Unlike Rybakina, who seems unfazed even when her coach is barking at her from the player’s box, Sabalenka wears her heart on her sleeve.

“I think Aryna is an extremely powerful player, great forehand,” said Vukov.

“Can have a great serving day, can have a bad serving day, something we will try to capitalise on tomorrow.

“I think who serves well tomorrow goes through. That’s my feeling.”