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Elena Rybakina to meet Aryna Sabalenka in Australian Open final

Elena Rybakina to meet Aryna Sabalenka in Australian Open final
© Reuters
Elena Rybakina and Aryna Sabalenka will contest the Australian Open women's singles final following semi-final wins over Victoria Azarenka and Magda Linette respectively.

Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina will meet Aryna Sabalenka in the Australian Open women's singles final following respective semi-final victories for the pair on Thursday.

Rybakina advanced to her second Grand Slam final courtesy of a 7-6[4] 6-3 victory over Victoria Azarenka in one hour and 41 minutes, while Sabalenka recorded a 7-6[1] 6-2 win over Polish trailblazer Magda Linette in one hour and 33 minutes.

Rybakina and Azarenka traded breaks in the fifth and sixth games of the first set, but as the former's first serve percentage dropped, Azarenka looked on course to take a 1-0 lead in the match.

Rybakina missed a set point on serve in the 10th game as Azarenka broke again, but the Belarusian then squandered three break points in game 11 as the first set went to a tie-breaker.

Having recovered from that minor blip in the first set, Rybakina won the tie-breaker and roared into a 5-2 lead in the second set, giving herself the chance to serve out the match.

Azarenka managed to break again to keep the contest alive that little bit longer, but Rybakina immediately brought up three match points on the Belarusian's serve - taking the second as Azarenka netted.

"It was different conditions, I couldn't play aggressive tennis and couldn't go so much for my shots but I was happy to win" the Kazakhstani said on the court. "I got a lot of experience from Wimbledon and I want to come on court [for the final] and enjoy the moment."

Aryna Sabalenka reacts at the Australian Open on January 26, 2023© Reuters

Following Rybakina's triumph, first-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Linette got off to the perfect start against world number five Sabalenka, breaking in the first game and holding for a 2-0 lead.

However, the Belarusian's hibernation would not last long, as she immediately got the contest back on serve at 2-2 before the pair exchanged eight successive holds between them.

Linette battled valiantly, but Sabalenka found a ruthless side to win the first six points in the tie-breaker, and she clinched her second set point before keeping the momentum going in the second.

After holding in her opening game, Linette lost five games on the bounce and was forced to serve to stay in the match, which was made all the more difficult as her mishit first serves plagued her.

The 30-year-old still managed to save three match points to hold and got to 30-30 on Sabalenka's serve in the eighth game, but the Belarusian brought up a fourth match point and clinched her place in the final with a powerful forehand winner.

"I'm super happy that I was able to get this win, she's an unbelievable player, she played really great tennis," Sabalenka said. "I didn't start really well but in the tie-break I started to trust myself.

When asked about her remarkable forehand speed, the 24-year-old added: "I think that I hit really slow balls today but I've got good genetics I guess!"

Sabalenka will now compete in her first Grand Slam final on Saturday, while Tommy Paul, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Karen Khachanov and Novak Djokovic will compete in the men's semi-finals tomorrow.

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