Aryna Sabalenka books power battle with Elena Rybakina in Australian Open final
Aryna Sabalenka will take on Elena Rybakina in a power battle in the final of the Australian Open.
After Rybakina saw off Victoria Azarenka, Sabalenka reached her first grand slam singles final with a 7-6 (1) 6-2 victory over unseeded Pole Magda Linette.
The Belarusian hit 33 winners and maintained her record of not losing a set through 10 matches so far this season.
FIRST GRAND SLAM FINAL INCOMING ♨️@SabalenkaA defeats Linette 7-6(1), 6-2 to record a 10th consecutive straight-set win in 2023!!#AusOpen pic.twitter.com/kVnxbf9eTS
— wta (@WTA) January 26, 2023
“I’m super happy that I was able to get this win,” said Sabalenka. “She’s an unbelievable player, she played great tennis. I didn’t start really well and in the tie-break I found my rhythm, started trusting myself and going for my shots.”
While Linette is a fine player and did everything she could to deny Sabalenka a rhythm, this felt a bit like a contest between the fifth seed and herself.
One of the most outwardly emotional players on tour, she has credited a new commitment to a calmer mindset for her consistency so far this season.
But, with memories of three grand slam semi-final defeats fresh in her mind, Sabalenka admitted this was a big test of whether she could keep her head.
The first game did not appear to bode well as the 24-year-old made three unforced errors to drop serve but she quickly recovered the deficit and from there began to play really well.
It was to Linette’s credit that, playing in the biggest match of her life, she did not allow herself to be completely overpowered and held her serve to force a first-set tie-break.
But there Sabalenka was untouchable, opening up a 6-0 lead, and in the second set she was simply too strong for Linette, who has enjoyed a breakthrough grand slam at the age of 30.
The Pole saved three match points at 5-1 but Sabalenka clinched her fourth opportunity, celebrating with an understated clenched fist that implied she knows the job is not yet done.
However, Sabalenka has cause to be confident. She has won all three of her previous battles with Rybakina. Previously, they have met twice on hard courts and once on grass.
All three of their previous encounters were, however, decided in three sets, so this is unlikely to be an easy task for either player.
The pair last met at Wimbledon 2021, with Sabalenka winning 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
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