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SABALENKA SIZZLES INTO SEMI



Sealed with a backhand volley winner, defending champion Aryna Sabalenka has won her 12th consecutive match at Melbourne Park to reach her sixth consecutive grand slam semi-final defeating Czech ninth seed Barbora Krejcikova 6-2, 6-3. 

 

Entering Rod Laver Arena some two hours after her scheduled start time due to both inexplicable scheduling decisions and two marathon day matches, Sabalenka did tournament organisers a favour by continuing her rampant form. 

 

Krejcikova, a former French Open champion herself, who barely scraped through her third and fourth round matches against Storm Hunter and Mirra Andreeva, was seeking to reverse an unfavourable 1-5 head-to-head record against Sabalenka although her one win did come on the hard courts of Dubai last year. 

 

Sabalenka, on the other hand, could hardly have started her year better.  After making the final in Brisbane in an admittedly one-sided loss to Elena Rybakina, Sabalenka had lost just 11 games in eight sets en route to the quarter-final.  The lowest since Maria Sharapova (five) and Serena Williams (eight) in 2013. 

 

The pair held service games to start the match before Sabalenka broke the Czech in the third and fifth games of the match at which point the trend became clear.  Krejcikova could hold her own while the points remained short, yet she would eventually succumb to the almost absurd weight of shot of the Sabalenka groundstrokes as Sabalenka won 14 of 16 longer rallies. 

 

Leading 4-1, the pair exchanged service breaks before Sabalenka held serve to put a full stop to the first set 6-2.

 

The second set started a mirror image of the first.  Krejcikova held before Sabanlenka reeled off four games in a row, picking off short balls with her lethal forehand as Krejcikova looked to her coaches box in frustration. 

 

Despite a brief scare with some erratic groundstrokes, Sabalenka was never truly challenged and sent Krejcikova packing with her sixth and final break of serve to emerge victorious 6-2, 6-3.

 

For her reward, Sabalenka will face Coco Gauff in the semi-finals on Thursday who survived an objectively terrible display of professional tennis against Marta Kostyuk in just over three hours.  Sabalenka, however, is excited by the prospect of facing her New York conqueror.

 

“After US Open, I really wanted that revenge, and, I mean, that's a great match” she said post-match.

 

“It's always great battles against Coco, with really great fights. I'm happy to play her, and I'm super excited to play that semi-final match.”

 

Given Gauff’s struggles and Sabalenka’s hot form, the Belarusian will likely enter the match the favourite despite losing to Gauff in the US Open final after winning the first set 6-2, 3-6, 2-6. 

 

In what might come as a surprise statement, whether Sabalenka will bring her best tennis for the duration of her match against Gauff tomorrow afternoon remains slightly less probably than one would anticipate for a defending grand slam champion.

 

In truth, across the seven grand slam semi-finals and two finals she has played, Sabalenka has lost from a winning position in six of those matches having either lost after winning the opening set, from a break up in the third and final set, or a combination of both; often to lower ranked opponents including at each of the final three grand slams in 2023, once in 2022 and twice in 2021.

 

In Gauff, who leads their head-to-head 4-2, Sabalenka faces a true litmus test of her progress in the last 12-18 months and with the winner to be the favourite in the final with 12th ranked Chinese Qinwen Zheng the highest remaining player in that half of the draw.  

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