Friday, March 31, 2023

Rybakina and Sabalenka meet in Australian women’s final

MELBOURNE, Australia ( Associated Press) — What turned out to be so alien and so complicated is now second nature to Elena Rybakina six months ago trying to win a Grand Slam title.

And if he manages to win one more match, he will add the Australian Open Championship to his tally at Wimbledon.

Rybakina, who represents Kazakhstan, beat Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka 7-6(4), 6-3 on Thursday to reach her second final in three Grand Slam events. At 23, Rybakina is affirming herself within the elite of women’s tennis.

“Everything was new at Wimbledon,” said Rybakina after hitting nine aces in the semifinals and establishing herself as the tournament leader with 44. “Now, more or less, I understand what to expect.”

That weapon could serve her well when she takes on Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka on Saturday. The 24-year-old fifth seed reached her first Grand Slam final on Thursday, defeating Poland’s Magda Linet 7-6 (1), 6-2 in the second semi-final.

Sabalenka went 10–0 in 2023, taking each of the 20 sets she played this season.

More importantly, the win over Linett ended Sabalenka’s semifinal round troubles after going 0–3 in their previous appearances.

Rybakina and Sabalenka have very similar styles of play: they rely on powerful serves and hit hard from the baseline. Sabalenka is too aggressive, and her gambit overwhelmed Linett, who had never made it past the third round in 29 Grand Slam appearances.

Sabalenka made up the difference with a lopsided 33-9 lead on winners, but she also committed plenty of unforced errors – including three that set up a line break to start the wrestling matchup at Rod Laver Arena.

In both semi-finals the first set tiebreaker served as the deciding moment. Azarenka missed her target, making it easy for Rybakina. Sabalenka won their match 6–0.

Rybakina extended an already impressive run against top-tier opponents. Azarenka, who won at Melbourne Park in 2012 and 2013, was added to the list of players eliminated by Rybakina in the past two weeks, such as world number one Iga Swiatek; Jelena Ostapenko (seeded 17th) – both with major titles under their belts – and 2022 finalist, Danielle Collins in Australia.

Rybakina’s play was particularly notable against established hard-court defenders such as Azarenka, a former world number one and three-time US Open finalist.

“Obviously I have a lot of Wimbledon experience and to be honest, I just want to go out on court and enjoy the moment,” Rybakina said before Saturday.

Although she came into Melbourne seeded 22nd in the standings and 25th, those figures are misleading and do not reflect her talent and form. She did not receive the usual promotion to her title at Wimbledon last July, where she was awarded zero points after the All England Club banned players from Russia and Belarus following the invasion of Ukraine.

Rybakina was born in Moscow, but has represented Kazakhstan since 2018, when that country offered to finance her career.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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