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Tuesday, July 23, 2024
Other SportsSabalenka and Zheng set up Australian Open final

Sabalenka and Zheng set up Australian Open final

Aryna Sabalenka bludgeoned her way to another Australian Open final with a straight-sets defeat of Coco Gauff.

The defending champion spoke beforehand about how she wanted to avenge her loss to the American in the US Open final last year and she duly delivered with an impressive 7-6 (7/2) 6-4 victory.

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Sabalenka will face Zheng Qinwen in Sunday’s showpiece after the Chinese saw off Ukrainian qualifier Dayana Yastremska 6-4 6-4 in the second semi-final.

In winning, Sabalenka became the first woman since Serena Williams in 2017 to reach back-to-back finals in Melbourne.

“I think I was able to focus on myself and I was prepared for her moving really good and putting every ball back,” said Sabalenka.

“I had to be ready to make an extra shot and I was ready for tonight.”

An error-strewn opening set appeared to be heading the way of Gauff when she broke for a 6-5 lead before moving 30-0 up. However, Sabalenka hit back and then ran through the tie-break to seize the initiative.

Sabalenka, displaying her usual power from the back of the court, looked the more threatening in the second set with Gauff holding on until the ninth game when Sabalenka broke to lead 5-4.

Gauff was unable to find a response as her opponent served it out.

“It was a tough match for me,” said Gauff.

“Overall it was a positive tournament. I had chances in both sets, but she played better. I think it just came down to a couple of points and that’s tennis.”

Sabalenka will start as overwhelming favourite to defend her crown against 12th seed Zheng, who is looking to replicate countrywoman Li Na’s win at Melbourne Park in 2014.

Zheng held her nerve in the crucial moments to edge out Yastremska, whose remarkable run finally came to an end.

She said: “It feels unbelievable. I’m super excited to have such a great performance today and arrive in the final. I think the opponent…she’s playing unbelievable tennis and got a really good baseline stroke.

“It’s tough to explain my feelings now. It’s my real first time here in Australia.”

Jon Fisher
Jon Fisher
Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.
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