Sabalenka Books Spot In Australian Open Final
In a scintillating women’s semifinal on Rod Laver Arena, world No. 2 and defending champion Aryna Sabalenka defeated world No. 4 Coco Gauff 7-6, 6-4 in one hour and 42 minutes.
Sabalenka is the first player since Serena Williams (2016-17) to reach back-to-back Australian Open finals.
Sabalenka got off to a quick start, holding in the first game at love and then jumping ahead to 5-2. Gauff fought back and even led 6-5, but wasn’t able to seize that opportunity.
Sabalenka played a near-perfect tiebreak, winning it 7-2.
In the second set, they stayed on serve until 4-all when Sabalenka played a brilliant return game to break and then held with her excellent serving. For the match, Sabalenka hit 76 percent of first serves in, while Gauff hit 57% of first serves in.
Sabalenka struck four aces and two double faults, while Gauff struck five aces and eight double faults.
But Gauff, the reigning US Open champion (having beaten Sabalenks there in three sets), has reason to be proud. She played aggressively and had her opportunities.
Gauff said: “Tough match for me tonight. Overall a positive tournament. I had chances in both sets, but she played better tonight. I did my best with the game plan that I had. It came just down to a couple of points. That’s tennis.
“She served better than in the US Open. She made less errors. But also, I played a little bit more aggressive this time. At the US Open it wasn’t a great match for me. Yes, I won. I played better tonight.”
The American said there were a lot of positives to take, but that a loss is a loss. “It hurts no matter what the score. But at the end of the day, she was the better player. I feel that I have a lot to improve.”
Sabalenka said: “It was an incredible match. She’s a great player. The key was that I was able to stay focused no matter what, no matter the score. I’m super happy to be in another final of the Grand Slam, and hopefully I can do a little bit better than I did last time.
“I think in New York, I played a little bit passive tennis against her after the first set. Played too many rallies, which doesn’t work well against her. During the off-season, I worked a lot on approach shots, coming to the net and finishing the point. That made the difference between these two matches.”
Next up for Sabalenka is Zheng Qinwen of China.
Sabalenka said of her opponent: “Zheng is a really nice girl, playing great tennis. She is moving well, fights well for every point, and her forehand is her best shot, quite heavy.”
Zheng is the second Chinese player to reach the final. The 21-year-old follows in the footsteps of her idol, Li Na, who won her second Grand Slam title at the Australian Open 10 years ago.