Aryna Sabalenka has been the top favorite for the title at the first Grand Slam tournament of the year since her round of 16 success over Belinda Bencic and the elimination of world number 1 Iga Swiatek. Swiatek’s surprising Polish compatriot Magda Linette (WTA 45) did her best for a set to prevent Sabalenka’s first final in one of the four largest tournaments.
However, the Belarusian showed a brilliant tie-break and couldn’t be stopped afterwards. The spring form of Sabalenkas is impressive. Including tournament victory in Adelaide, she won all ten matches she played in 2023 – and all in straight sets. In the last two years, the former protégé of new Bencic coach Dmitry Tursunov has had three Grand Slam semifinals but failed each time. Now the 24-year-old from Minsk has cleared this hurdle for the first time and is also the favorite in the final on Saturday against Jelena Rybakina from Kazakhstan (WTA 25).
She also wins her semi-final without losing a set. The 23-year-old Wimbledon winner from Kazakhstan beats Viktoria Asarenka 7: 6 (7: 4), 6: 3 in a not too high duel.
Even if both players allow themselves mistakes and phases of weakness (eight breaks), Rybakina dictates the game. In the first set alone, she beats 20 winners and repeatedly puts her opponent under pressure with powerful punches. After Rybakina gave up a 5:3 lead and had to fend off three breakballs when the score was 5:5, she won the tiebreak and the second round relatively confidently.
The fact that the world number 25, who was born in Moscow and has been playing for Kazakhstan since 2018, has only lost one set in the tournament so far (5: 7 against Collins). The first set against Azarenka is only the second of the tournament, in which Rybakina has to go into overtime. Rybakina will break into the top ten for the first time on Monday – a step that would have taken place long ago if the WTA points had not been withdrawn at Wimbledon due to the exclusion of the Russians and Belarusians. (che/bjl/SDA)
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