For the fourth straight year a new women will win the Australian Open singles title. The last two left are Aryna Sabelenka and Elena Rybakina who powered into the title match Thursday night in Melbourne.
Rybakina ousted 2-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka 7-6(4), 6-4.
“For sure I’m super happy, I’m super proud,” Rybakina said. “I’m very happy to play her one more time.
“Today it was a little tough for me, different conditions, I couldn’t be super aggressive. In the end I managed to win and I’ll try my best in the final, of course.
“For sure I got a lot of experience from Wimbledon, to be honest I just want to come on court and enjoy the moment, the atmosphere. I’ll try my best, fight and hopefully I’m going to win.”
The Wimbledon champion started strong with three consecutive aces to close out the first game, but later couldn’t find a first serve.
The 33-year-old Azarenka kept pace in the streaky opener. A key moment came at 5-all with Rybakina serving 0-40. The Belarussian came up empty. Rybakina’s heavy groundstrokes came up big when needed, especially in the breaker.
The Kazakh would break Azarenka for 2-1 and that was all that was needed. The match ended with three straight breaks and Rybakina in her first Australian final.
“I couldn’t get free points on my serve that easy like during the day when I played the matches,” said Rybakina who finished with 9 aces. “I knew that I need just to adjust. I was doing the correct things. It was just a matter to be more focused on these important moments. In the end, I just was playing point by point no matter score. Everything went well.”
Azarenka finished winning just two of 13 points on her second serve in the second. Azarenka also suffered her first defeat at the semifinal stage of the Australian Open.
“I’m proud of myself how I fought and I tried, but tennis-wise I felt like just wasn’t there, especially in the important moments when I kept creating those opportunities for me. Just couldn’t convert them,” Azarenka said.
“Not a great feeling right now to digest. But give me a couple of hours and I can have probably a better outlook on this month in Australia. Look forward to throughout the year what I can do.”
“Overall I felt like I was handling her serve actually pretty well,” she added. “Couple shots after that, I wasn’t adjusting well. Some balls were coming slow. Some balls were coming faster. I felt like I wasn’t really focusing on what I have to do. Kind of misjudged a lot of balls.”
In the second semifinal, Sabalenka, who was 0-3 in Slam semifinals, overcame a bumpy start to overwhelm Magda Linette 7-6(1), 6-2.
“I’m super happy that I was able to get this win,” said Sabalenka. “She’s an unbelievable player, she played really great tennis.”
The surprising Pole broke Sabalenka to start the match but Sabalenka’s power gradually got the Belarussian the upper hand.
The 30-year-old had never beaten Sabalenka in two prior meetings and had never been past a Slam third round. Thursday night, though, Linette was a cool customer in this her biggest match of her life.
The two would exchange breaks until the end of the set. Linette wobbled but didn’t fall over serving to stay in it at 5-6. But the floodgates opened in the breaker. Sabalenka would won the first six points and then dominated the second set to reach her very first Grand Slam final.
“She was moving really well, putting everything back,” Sabalenka said. “I felt like a little bit under pressure, which I expect.”
Two years after knee surgery forced her out of the Australian Open, Linette reached new heights at Melbourne.
“Really, it’s like point here and point there,” said Linette. “That’s what we actually already spoke a little bit with my coach. It’s so nice that we actually said, ‘Maybe on this point I could have done this a little bit different.’
“That means we are really on a good track, like we have a really good structure of what I’m going to do on the court. Just a little bit one point here, one point there. That’s somewhere you want to be as a tennis player. We are really happy it’s working and just the beginning.”
Sabalenka has won all three meetings with Rybakina. She’s the last person to beat her at Wimbledon.
“Everything was new at Wimbledon,” Rybakina said. “Now I more or less understand what to expect.
“It’s nervous no matter what because it’s a final. Also semis, you always nervous before the match. But this time I think I was focusing more on the match, what I have to do, and maybe not to think what’s going to come or what’s going to happen around.”
Sabalenka can’t wait.
“She’s an amazing player, she’s playing great tennis, super aggressive and she’s already got one Grand Slam so she kind of has this experience playing final,” Sabalenka said of her Kazakh rival.
“I’m really looking forward to this final,”
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Wog Boy Says:
Well, sort of, born, bred and never left Moscow, representing Russia until 2018, never lived in Kazakhstan nor she lives now (apart of visiting it few times a year for official ceremonies).
So yes, she represents Kazakhstan for exchange of financial support they gave her when nobody else wanted, which is fair and correct, but Kazakh, no, full blooded Russian.
Poetic justice, two finalists.
January 26th, 2023 at 5:29 pm