Is Aryna Sabalenka about to become the new queen of tennis after latest US Open win?
Aryna Sabalenka is already a Grand Slam champion but now she is eyeing up even more.
The soon-to-be world No 1 flexed her muscles at the US Open by beating Chinese youngster Zheng Qinwen to reach the semi-finals in New York, with the manner of her win confirming she could become the new dominant force at the top of the women’s game.
The second seed from Belarus will take over from Iga Swiatek at the top of the rankings on Monday, ending the Pole’s 75-week reign.
She cruised into the last four at Flushing Meadows for the third straight year with a commanding 6-1 6-4 victory in an hour and 13 minutes.
Zheng, 20, playing in her first grand slam quarter-final, won just four of the first 24 points of the match as Sabalenka raced into a 5-0 lead.
She stopped the bleeding by holding serve in the sixth game, but Sabalenka wrapped up the first set in only 27 minutes.
Zheng, seeded 23, restored some pride in the second but a break in the seventh game ensured Sabalenka became the first woman to reach the semi-finals of all four grand slams in the same year since Serena Williams in 2016.
The 25-year-old has dropped just 21 games in the 10 sets she has played over five rounds in New York.
She said: “I definitely played great tennis. I’m super happy with the performance tonight and to give myself a chance to do better in the semis.
“I’m going to do everything I can to stay until the end.”
Sabalenka has had major problems with her serve over the course of her career, but she now seems to be content with her all round game.
“I was worried playing rallies in those important points, I learnt that I’m ready to stay in those rallies and stay in the point on those important games,” said the Belarusian
“I was working on my physical abilities so I’m not getting tired on court.”
When asked about her imminent rise to world No 1 for the first time she added: “Of course I’m happy and it’s really important for me and my family but I have some things to do in New York.
“I’m trying to focus on my game and will think about being world No 1 after the US Open.”
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova was full of praise for Sabalenka, as she offered up her verdict to Sky Sports.
“She played outstanding from the get-go. She got off to a quick start and never looked back,” said the four-time US Open champion.
“She just dominated from the first point to the last. Even with a double fault when serving for the match, no big deal, she serves a big serve on the next point.”
Sabalenka has a charming personality when she speaks to fans and the media, but she has yet to make a connection that allows her to become a favourite for tennis audiences around the world.
Some find her habit of screaming when she strikes the ball annoying and her powerful game lacks some grace.
Yet this is a champion who is about to get her turn at the top of the world rankings and it will be fascinating to see how she handles the pressure that comes with being the one everyone wants to beat.
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