Sabalenka Powers Past Gauff to Set Up Australian Open Final Against Zheng

Aryna Sabalenka in action. (Source:

Aryna Sabalenka is on a massive mission. At the Rod Laver Arena on Thursday, the second seed from Belarus wore down Coco Gauff 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 to enter the women’s singles final at the Australian Open. In Saturday’s final, the defending champion will take on China’s Qinwen Zheng, a 6-4, 6-4 winner against Dayana Yastremska, the qualifier and rank outsider from Ukraine.

Ten years ago, Li Na, China’s first tennis superstar, won the Australian Open. For Zheng to scale a new peak has been awesome. “Of course, we’ve been working hard,” she said after the match.

“That’s the basic of all athletes. We put a lot of effort on the tennis court, also in fitness and treatment. You know, basic stuff. I think it’s just the little details help every day. Thanks again to my team. I can’t do it without you guys.” 

In terms of pace on serve, Yastremska, who had a mind-blowing run till the semis, looked more solid but the big difference was in the fewer unforced errors from Zheng’s racquet. At one point, the Chinese star cranked up a big serve at 184km/hr, which caught the eye, since she does not look like a powerhouse.

As for Sabalenka, she has been in red-hot form Down Under. Yet, in the semi-finals, Gauff pushed her hard for long phases in the first set. In such scenarios, who blinks first is crucial.

Sabalenka has the game, arsenal and experience to win any match in a tough situation. In Melbourne, she is very comfortable with the ambience and uses the energy from the audience to hit top gear. Yet, what would have also driven her towards perfection was the fact that she had lost to Gauff in the US Open final in New York last year.

These women do not accept defeat easily and have long memories. So, perhaps thoughts of that loss came to the fore as Sabalenka powered her way through in the second part of the match. The serve was a key area for her. Her ace count was only four, but she was able to rifle in 76 per cent of her first serves.

Where the two ladies engaged in heavy artillery battle was from the back court and mid court, with really strong rallies. Sabalenka unleashed ferocious winners, 33 in all, and used her swift returns to outfox Gauff. Way back in 2016 and 2017, a certain Serena Williams had made back-to-back finals at the Australian Open. Today, Sabalenka matched that feat, winning six matches in 12 sets.

“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, who has now reached at least the semi-finals in each of the past six Grand Slams. “I had to be ready to make an extra shot, and I was ready for it tonight.”

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