After a tight first set, Elena Rybakina got the better of Victoria Azarenka to win 7-6, 6-3 in 1 hour and 41 minutes and qualify for the final this Thursday in Melbourne. Six months after her surprise title at Wimbledon, the Kazakh will try to win a second major title. It will be against Aryna Sabalenka or Magda Linette.
Between the 24th player in the world (Elena Rybakina) and the 25th (Victoria Azarenka), it was difficult, on paper, to make a more balanced match than this first women’s semifinal on the program this Thursday in Melbourne. In fact, the match was undecided for a set, the first one, before the great Kazakh finally got the better of Azarenka (7-6, 6-3) who progressively lost in the second set.
The Belarusian, who won the title in Melbourne in 2012 and 2013, missed the boat in a disjointed first set where she had several chances. It was her first break of the match (3-2) and it was important when you know the quality of Rybakina’s serve, who also hit nine aces, adding 44 to her total since the beginning of the tournament.
AZARENKA TOO MUCH ON THE RISE
But Azarenka then had a big break to find herself down 5-3, set point on her opponent’s serve. “Vika” saved it beautifully with a superb forehand passing shot at the end of the court to finally break, come back to 5-5 and give herself three break points in a row. This time again, she didn’t take the opportunity, before collapsing in the tiebreak and finally letting Rybakina win this rather disjointed first set.
What was disjointed was Azarenka’s level of play, which then dropped sharply in the second set with a break quickly conceded (1-2), then a second (2-5). With her back against the wall, the former world number 1 had a last gasp when she broke one of her two breaks, but it was only to fall behind on her serve. Thanks to a new unforced error on the backhand, Elena Rybakina, who was generally more solid and consistent, completed a well-deserved victory in 1 hour and 41 minutes.
RYBAKINA, A CONFIRMATION
And this time, no one will say that it is the umpteenth surprise in women’s tennis or, worse, an accident. The Kazakhstan native was not expected to win at Wimbledon, where she finally beat the favorite Ons Jabeur in the final, but here she is holding her own, even if her rank (seeded No. 22) is not in line with her real level of play, given that her London victory did not earn her a single point in the world rankings.
It’s hard to get more out of a final when you beat three former Grand Slam winners in a row, including world No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the round of 16 and former Melbourne queen Victoria Azarenka in the semis (plus Jelena Ostapenko in between).
In the same way, no one will say that Elena Rybakina will not have a chance in the final, whether it is Aryna Sabalenka or (even more) Magda Linette against her. No, there is no doubt about it now: at 23 years old, the tall Kazakh, 1.84 m tall, has established herself as one of the best players in the world and will try to join the closed club of multiple Grand Slam champions on Saturday.
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