Aryna Sabalenka overcomes Coco Gauff challenge to reach another grand slam final

By Sports Desk January 25, 2024

Aryna Sabalenka has her sights on a second straight Australian Open title after a successful revenge mission against Coco Gauff.

Gauff denied Sabalenka a second grand slam title of the year with victory in the US Open final last summer but her winning run at the majors came to an end with a 7-6 (2) 6-4 defeat under the roof on Rod Laver Arena.

Sabalenka will now be a big favourite to successfully defend her title at Melbourne Park on Saturday when she takes on first-time slam finalist Zheng Qinwen, who defeated Dayana Yastremska 6-4 6-4.

Sabalenka has been in tremendous form this fortnight, not losing more than three games in any set prior to this semi-final meeting.

Gauff’s stellar powers of defence, which turned the tables in New York after she had lost the first set, ensured she got significantly closer than any of Sabalenka’s previous opponents, but it was still not enough.

“It was (an) incredible match,” said the second seed. “She’s a great player, always tough battles against her. I think the key was that I was able to stay focused no matter what. I just kept trying my best, kept fighting for it.

“Of course I’m super happy to be in another final of the grand slam. Hopefully I can do a little bit better than the last time.”

Gauff made a poor start, with five double faults in her first three service games helping Sabalenka open up a 5-2 lead.

But Gauff’s ability to get one more ball back in play better than anyone else in the women’s game had put Sabalenka into meltdown mode in New York and she threatened the same here.

Sabalenka failed to serve out the set at 5-3 and Gauff saved a set point in the next game before making it four games in a row, the crowd gasping as the Belarusian pushed a forehand wide with the whole court at her mercy.

Gauff was two points away from taking the set but Sabalenka refused to let history repeat itself and forced a tie-break, where she put on a display of awesome power that even the athletic American could find no answer to.

The second was nip and tuck but Sabalenka got the crucial break at 4-4 and served out the victory to become the first woman since Serena Williams in 2016 and 2017 to reach successive finals here.

Gauff looked emotional leaving the court but she rated her performance as better than in the US Open final, saying: “I felt like it wasn’t a great match for me. Yes, I won. I think I played better tonight.

“I wish I could have made more first serves. I think that was the difference. She had a higher first-serve percentage, and it’s tough to also go for the second when you double-faulted a couple times.

“I put myself in the position to serve out the set. At the end of the day, it came down to a couple of points. Same in the second.”

The 19-year-old immediately found perspective at the end of her final slam as a teenager, saying: “I watched these matches growing up, watching Serena (Williams) and (Maria) Sharapova lose these matches.

“When you’re in it, it feels like the end of the world. But then, when you look at history, they didn’t let one match define their career.

“I’m going to dwell on it tonight but, as (coach) Brad (Gilbert) told me as soon as the match was over, the sun is going to rise tomorrow and you have a new chance to live a good day. Tomorrow I’m going to try to go to the movies or something, be proud of myself.”

Twelfth seed Zheng has kept her head while the more fancied players in the top half of the draw have fallen around her.

Yastremska was trying to emulate Emma Raducanu by reaching a grand slam final as a qualifier but she came out second best in a big-hitting encounter.

Zheng, who has not yet faced a top-50 opponent, is the first Chinese player to make it to a slam decider since Li Na won the title here a decade ago.

The 21-year-old said: “It feels unbelievable. I’m super excited to have a such a great performance today and arrive in the final.”

Related items

  • Alcaraz turns focus to Queen's and Wimbledon after French Open glory Alcaraz turns focus to Queen's and Wimbledon after French Open glory

    Carlos Alcaraz is not wanting to dwell on his French Open triumph as the Spaniard prepares for Wimbledon by featuring at the Queen's Club Championships this week.

    The 21-year-old secured his third major title this month after overcoming Alexander Zverev in a five-set final thriller at Roland-Garros.

    Alcaraz is the youngest player in the Open Era to win the singles title at three different grand slams, with the Australian Open the only one missing from the set.

    The world number two has one thing on his mind, however, as Alcaraz turns his focus to the grass-court challenge awaiting at Queen's, and subsequently the next major Wimbledon.

    "We have to be focused on the tournament that we are playing right now," Alcaraz said. "Roland-Garros was a fantastic two weeks for me, a dream come true lifting the trophy.

    "But right now my mind has to be here on the grass to be ready. As soon as I can to play good tennis and to get ready for Wimbledon.

    "Right now my focus is on the grass and then after that, my mind will be on clay again to be at my best for the Olympics."

    Just a year ago, Alcaraz headed to Queen's with only four ATP wins on grass.

    A year later, the big-hitting youngster is getting ready to defend his title in the Wimbledon warm-up tournament before attempting to go back-to-back at the next major.

    "I have more matches in my bank on grass and now with the great run I had last year at Queen's and Wimbledon, I know a little bit on how to play and understand the game a little bit on grass," he added.

    "I am more mature playing on this surface. The first practice I have done here, my movement wasn't as good as last year but it is a slow process, so I have to be really focused in every practice and every match."

    Alcaraz took the fewest main draw appearances of any player in the Open Era to win titles on grass, clay and hard courts.

    He celebrated that French Open glory with a tattoo of Paris' Eiffel Tower on his left ankle, before jetting off for further toasts to his success.

    Asked on his plans after Paris, Alcaraz said: "I had a few days off. I went to Ibiza with a group of friends. I had fun. It was a great time celebrating Roland Garros and I just had fun.

    "For me as a player, I need this kind of thing. Every player is different but for me to reach my best tennis I have to separate the professional part from the personal part.

    "I have some days off to forget a little bit that I am a professional player. Being with my friends and family means I can rest a little bit."

  • Sabalenka confirms she will not compete at Paris Olympics Sabalenka confirms she will not compete at Paris Olympics

    Aryna Sabalenka has confirmed she will not compete at the Olympic Games in Paris next month in order to prioritise her health. 

    The world number three retained her Australian Open title at the start of the year but suffered defeat in the quarter-finals of the French Open at Roland-Garros.

    The Belarusian's loss was her first before the semi-final stage of a major tournament since 2022, and she intends to rest ahead of the for the hard-court season which begins at the US Open 22 games after the Olympics. 

    "I prefer to have a little rest to make sure physically and health-wise I'm ready for the hard courts," said Sabalenka, who was the runner-up last year in New York. 

    "Especially with all the struggles I've been struggling with the last months, I feel I have to take care of my health.

    "It's too much for the scheduling and I made the decision to take care of my health."

    Sabalenka is currently in Germany preparing for the Berlin Open, and faces Daria Kasatkina in the last 16 of the competition, having come from a set down to beat Marta Kostyuk on Monday. 

  • Medvedev survives early scare to beat Borges at Halle Open Medvedev survives early scare to beat Borges at Halle Open

    Daniil Medvedev secured his spot in the next round of the Halle Open after fending off a valiant Nuno Borges in straight sets.

    The world number five prevailed 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 on Monday to bounce back from his round-of-16 exit to Alex de Minaur at Roland-Garros.

    Medvedev found himself behind early on as Borges won an early break point, but the Russian roared back to win the tiebreak 7-4.

    Borges continued to match his opponent in the second set, but the former world number one showcased his endurance and class, finishing the contest in style to secure his place in the round of 16. 

    Medvedev will now face Zhizhen Zhang after his win over Sebastian Ofner earlier in the day. 

    Data Debrief: Med goes two for two

    This duo first met at this year's Australian Open, with Medvedev winning on that occasion too.

    It was a tight encounter this time around, as Medvedev was forced to save five break points, while also striking nine aces, but he made it two straight wins against Borges.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.