Australian Open: Sabalenka feels 'different' after three previous grand slam semi-final losses

By Sports Desk January 25, 2023

Aryna Sabalenka has lost all three of her previous grand slam semi-finals but says this year's Australian Open feels different after powering her way into the last four on Wednesday.

The 24-year-old fifth seed triumphed 6-3 6-2 over Donna Vekic to secure a berth in the semi-finals where she will face unseeded Pole Magda Linette.

Sabalenka won the Adelaide International title prior to the Melbourne Open, meaning she has won her past nine matches without dropping a set.

Wednesday's win improved Sabalenka's grand slam quarter-final record to 4-0, but her major semi-final record is a different story, currently 0-3, despite winning the first set in all three.

Sabalenka made the US Open semi-final last year where she lost to top seed and eventual winner Iga Swiakek. The Belarussian also made the semis at Flushing Meadows in 2021, going down to unseeded Canadian Leylah Fernandez, while she lost her 2021 Wimbledon semi-final to eighth seed Karolina Pliskova.

"I feel a little bit different," Sabalenka told reporters. "I think that I lost those three semi-finals just because I wasn't really calm on court.

"I was overdoing things. I really wanted to get this slam. I was rushing a lot. I was nervous a lot. Screaming, doing all this stuff.

"Right now, I'm a little bit more calm on court. I think I really believe that this is the only thing that was missing in my game. If I can keep that focus and that calm on court, I can get through it.

"I just feel like I have more believe in myself. I feel like this is the huge difference."

The powerful Sabalenka utilized her forehand brilliantly against Vekic with 38 winners, while she kept her cool, saving 12 of 14 break points.

When asked how she is staying focused, she added: "I'm just trying to look at the situation from the top, to see, for example I'm up with a break, and even if she's going to break me back, nothing bad going to happen. You are just going to keep serving well.

"I'm just trying to look at the situation from the top, try to relax myself, try to think what I have to do."

Sabalenka's run to the Australian Open last four sets up the opportunity of a first-ever all-Belarussian grand slam final, with compatriot Victoria Azarenka into the other semi-final, where she will face Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.

"I really want it to happen," she said. "I know that Vika will do everything she can to make it happen. I will do everything I can to make it happen.

"That's going to be history. That's going to be just unbelievable and tough to realise that this is actually happening.

"It's just going to be huge. This is going to help other kids to understand that they can do well in this sport, they can be top players."

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