Elena Rybakina is thrilled her parents will be on hand for Saturday's Australian Open final after they were unable to witness her Wimbledon triumph.

The Moscow-born 23-year-old, now competing for Kazakhstan, achieved a grand slam breakthrough when she overcame Ons Jabeur to triumph at the All England Club last July.

It was a victory that was tinged with sadness, though, with father Andrey and mother Ekaterina not able to obtain visas to travel from Russia to London.

Rybakina broke down in tears in a press conference after her Wimbledon triumph when asked about her absent parents, but they are with her in Melbourne and will be in the stands to watch the title match against Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka.

A 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 win against two-time champion Victoria Azarenka on Thursday carried Rybakina through to the showpiece match.

When she was asked whether being on site makes the occasion more special for her parents, Rybakina said: "For sure it's great for them. I didn't even talk with them yet, but I'm sure they're happy. They don't see me often playing live, so I think this time it's a big result already.

"No matter how I play in the final, I think they're very proud and happy.

"For sure they're nervous. I think every match I play they're nervous, no matter if it's live or they're watching on TV. You can never get used to this. Of course, you're going to be nervous no matter if it's first round or final."

Rybakina has lost her three previous matches against Sabalenka, with each of them following the same pattern. Sabalenka has won the first set every time, dropped the second, and then come back to convincingly take the decider.

They have not played since 2021, however, and Rybakina has become a slam champion since then, while Sabalenka still awaits a breakthrough on that scale.

Given Sabalenka is unbeaten in 10 matches this year and has yet to even drop a set, Rybakina may still have her work cut out at the weekend.

However, Rybakina is the player who sank the title hopes of world number one Iga Swiatek in round four, and she also saw off the dangerous Jelena Ostapenko, a former French Open winner, before toppling Azarenka.

"It was a great challenge for me because for sure they have experience of winning grand slams, so it was nothing new for them," Rybakina said. "For me this time I would say it was a bit easier also compared to Wimbledon when I was playing for the first time in the quarters, semis, final.

"For sure, they're very experienced players. I knew that I have to focus on every point. I think in the end I did real well."

The difference between Rybakina before last year's Wimbledon and the player now in the hunt for a second grand slam is obvious.

She knows there are no limits for her at these tournaments, having gone all the way, whereas Sabalenka has never previously contested a singles slam final.

"Everything was new at Wimbledon. Now I more or less understand what to expect," Rybakina said.

Her parents have a grip on what she can achieve too, and Andrey's suggestion she should have gone to college as a teenager rather than join the professional ranks is something they can now laugh off.

"Well, we didn't talk about this, but I will ask for sure now since you mention it," Rybakina said, when her father's advice was brought up. "For every parent, it's difficult to make any decision because I'm young and of course I want to play. For them, they're worried if I will be injured or something.

"But I think he's happy and he's very proud. I know that from the beginning, they believed in me no matter if I will lose first round or anything as a junior because they saw also potential, how I loved the game. I think they're just proud now."

Victoria Azarenka was not impressed with being asked a "provocative question" about a pro-Russia demonstration at the Australian Open after her semi-final defeat to Elena Rybakina.

Azarenka's quest to end a 10-year wait for a third grand slam singles title ended when the Belarusian was beaten 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 by the Wimbledon champion on Thursday.

The 33-year-old's loss on Rod Laver Arena came after Novak Djokovic's father, Srdjan, was seen with supporters of Russian president Vladimir Putin at Melbourne Park.

Pro-Putin agitators staged a rally outside Rod Laver Arena, after Djokovic beat Russian Andrey Rublev to reach the last four on Wednesday, with four people later questioned by police following allegations that security guards were threatened.

Rublev has previously expressed his opposition to Russia's war in Ukraine, which has been ongoing since last February.

Putin supporters chanted and carried Serbian and Russian flags. One man appeared to be wearing a T-shirt adorned with the letter 'Z' – used as a pro-war symbol in Russia.

Srdjan Djokovic was seen standing with the group alongside a man holding a Russian flag with Putin's face on it. According to reports, he said: "Long live the Russians."

Tennis Australia banned Russian and Belarusian flags from being taken into grounds, after a spectator was reported to security for displaying one during a match between Ukraine's Kateryna Baindl and Russian Kamilla Rakhimova.

Azarenka was not happy with being asked about political issues during her post-match press conference.

She told a reporter: "You're here talking about it right now, so obviously it's a topic you want to continue to bring up and up and up again. I don't know what you want me to say."

Asked if Djokovic might be affected by the incident, Azarenka replied: "I don't know what it has to do with Novak at all, to be fair, so...

"I've spoken to actually a security guard today who was walking me to practice every day. I've known him for years. I just asked him what was the accident [sic]. He explained to me.

"I don't know what you guys want us to do about it. Like talk about it? I don't know what's the goal here that it's continuously brought up. These incidents that in my opinion have nothing to do with players, but somehow you keep dragging players into it.

"So what's the goal here? I think you should ask yourself that question, not me.

"Whatever the answer I'm going to give to you right now, it's going to be turned whichever way you want to turn it to. So does it bother me? What bothers me is there's real things that's going on in the world. I don't know. Are you a politician? Are you? Are you covering politics?"

When the reporter said: "No, I'm a sports journalist", Azarenka responded by saying: "And I'm an athlete. You're asking me about things that maybe somebody says are in my control, but I don't believe that.

"I don't know what you want me to answer. If it's a provocative question, then you can spin the story however you want."

Aryna Sabalenka reached uncharted territory in her career by fending off Magda Linette to set up an Australian Open final showdown with Elena Rybakina.

Only a year ago, Sabalenka's game was in crisis as she struggled horrendously with serving yips, but now a first grand slam singles title match awaits the Belarusian.

She scored a 7-6 (7-1) 6-2 victory over unseeded Polish player Linette on Rod Laver Arena, recovering from going an early break down in the first set before taking command of the contest.

Trailing 2-0 and 30-all on serve, Sabalenka ripped a brilliant forehand winner on the run and yelled "Come on!", looking to gee herself up. It did the trick as she won the game to gain a foothold, then came from 40-0 behind in Linette's next service game to break back.

Neither player had a further break point before the tie-break, which fifth seed Sabalenka dominated, before racing 4-1 ahead in the second set.

The 24-year-old, facing an opponent six years her senior, gave Linette precious little hope of a comeback. Linette admirably staved off three match points at 5-1 down, holding serve to keeping Sabalenka waiting, but the deepest grand slam run of her career is over.

Now opportunity knocks for Sabalenka in the biggest match of her life at the weekend, her 20th WTA-level singles final, with Wimbledon champion Rybakina standing in her way.

Data slam: Taking a straight line to glory

Sabalenka has won 10 out of 10 matches in 2023 so far, landing a title in Adelaide before embarking on this run in Melbourne. More impressive than that is all the wins have come in straight sets. She had lost three slam singles semi-finals leading up to this Linette clash, but now that hurdle has been cleared.

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Sabalenka – 6/2
Linette – 1/1

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Sabalenka – 33/25
Linette – 9/16

BREAK POINTS WON

Sabalenka – 3/7
Linette – 1/4

Elena Rybakina reached her first Australian Open final with a straight-sets victory over Victoria Azarenka on Rod Laver Arena.   Wimbledon champion Rybakina was not at her best but came from a break down in the opener and went on to win 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 on Thursday.   Rybakina struggled with her first serve, but a below-par Azarenka was unable to capitalise in her first Australian Open semi-final since retaining her title a decade ago.   The Kazakh will face Arnya Sabalenka or Magda Linette in her second grand slam final on Saturday.


Rybakina, the 22nd seed, started with a double fault but there were no signs of nerves as she followed that up with three aces to hold, but Azarenka earned the first break with a well-constructed point that she ended with a volley to lead 3-2.

Azarenka was unable to consolidate that break, though, as a combination of power and precision enabled Rybakina to hit straight back and the 23-year-old was 5-3 up following an unforced error from her experienced opponent.

Rybakina was unable to serve out the set as the battling two-time champion conjured up a majestic forehand winner on the run, saving a set point before breaking back.

There was frustration for 24th seed Azarenka when she saw three break points come and go in the next game as Rybakina endured huge struggles with her first serve, but won a tense, error-strewn tie-break when the former world number one sprayed a forehand wide.

Azarenka saved a break point first game of the second with a sublime cross-court forehand winner and held with an ace, but Rybakina was able to secure the break for a 2-1 lead.

Rybakina wasted a great chance to go 4-1 up when she missed a simple forehand, but she was serving for the set after Azarenka also got a forehand all wrong.

She was unable to serve it out, but a flat Azarenka bowed out following a poor service game that she ended by crashing a backhand into the net.


Rybakina overcomes another major hurdle

That is three major champions Rybakina has seen off to reach her maiden Australian Open final.

She beat strong favourite and world number one Iga Swiatek in the fourth round and got past Jelena Ostapenko before toppling Azarenka.


ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Rybakina– 9/3
Azarenka– 3/6

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Rybakina– 30/21
Azarenka– 26/27

BREAK POINTS WON

Rybakina – 5/11
Azarenka– 3/8

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."

Fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka kept alive her hopes of a maiden grand slam final appearance after downing Donna Vekic in straight sets in their Australian Open quarter-final on Thursday.

Sabalenka, who has lost three major semi-finals, progressed to a last-four date with Poland's Magda Linette, after triumphing 6-3 6-2 over the unseeded 26-year-old Croatian in one hour and 47 minutes at Rod Laver Arena.

The 24-year-old Belarussian's powerful forehand and ability to win the key points ultimately made the difference.

Sabalenka blasted 38 winners for the match, the majority on her forehand, compared to Dekic's 21, while she also sent down nine aces.

Neither player was able to assert themselves in a disjointed first set, where Sabalenka got the first break in the fourth game with a deft drop shot, only for Vekic to respond immediately with a break back.

Vekic won only four-of-17 second-serve points in the first set, committing nine double faults, as Sabalenka broke again for 5-3 before serving out the opening frame.

Sabalenka appeared set to cruise into the last four when she broke Vekic again in the opening game of the second frame, racing to a 3-0 lead, before the Croatian showed some fight.

Data slam: Sabalenka clutch under pressure

The match was closer than the scoreline suggested, with eight of the first 12 games going to deuce, but Sabalenka's big-game experience arguably held her in good stead under pressure.

The Belarussian faced nine break points in the first set, saving eight of those, while she finished the match surviving 12 of 14, including three in the decisive game.

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Sabalenka– 9/9
Vekic– 4/13

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Sabalenka– 38/35
Vekic– 21/25

BREAK POINTS WON

Sabalenka– 5/13
Vekic– 2/14

Poland will have a woman in the semi-final of the Australian Open after Magda Linette emerged victorious 6-3 7-5 in Wednesday's quarter-final against Karolina Pliskova.

World number one Iga Swiatek was expected to be flying the flag for Poland deep into the tournament, but after her surprising exit it is now the 30-year-old Linette who will try to step up and go all the way.

Having never advanced past the third round at any of her previous 29 grand slam appearances, Linette has now hit a remarkable run of form that includes consecutive wins over world number 19 Anett Kontaveit, world number 18 Ekaterina Alexandrova, and world number four Caroline Garcia.

Against Pliskova – a former world number one – Linette capitalised on some sloppy play as her Czech opponent committed an uncharacteristic 36 unforced errors with only 18 winners.

Pliskova also committed seven double-faults, leading to a meagre 58 per cent success rate (34-of-59) from her service points, while Linette converted at a 70 per cent clip (45-of-64).

Speaking on the court immediately after her triumph, Linette said: "I will never forget this. This is the first time ever I'm breaking through some really difficult things for me. This will stay with me for life, so I'm really grateful and super happy for the support."

Linette will face the winner between Aryna Sabalenka and Donna Vekic in the semi-final, while Elena Rybakina and Victoria Azarenka will battle it out for the other spot in the decider.

Victoria Azarenka sympathised with Novak Djokovic as she stated tennis players are "not villains" after reaching the Australian Open semi-finals for the first time in a decade.

Azarenka beat Jessica Pegula 6-4 6-1 on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday to set up a last-four meeting with Elena Rybakina.

Former world number one Azarenka came in for criticism when she took a medical timeout during her last semi-final at Melbourne Park back in 2013, delaying her match against Sloane Stephens by 10 minutes.

The Belarusian, who is now 33, returned to beat Stephens and went on to defend successfully her title.

Questions have been raised over the extent of a hamstring issue nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic has been contending with as he attempts to match Rafael Nadal's tally of 22 major triumphs this weekend.

Azarenka feels it is out of order for such suspicions to be raised by people who are not aware of the facts.

She said: "Do you know what happened 10 years ago? That's the thing.

"It was one of the worst things that I've ever gone through in my professional career, the way I was treated after that moment, the way I had to explain myself until 10:30pm at night because people didn't want to believe me. I actually can resonate what Novak said the other day.

"There is sometimes incredible desire for a villain and a hero story that has to be written. But we're not villains, we're not heroes, we are regular human beings that go through so many, many things.

"Assumptions and judgements, all those comments, are just s*** because nobody's there to see the full story. It didn't matter how many times I said my story, it did not cut through.

"Actually it's funny that you're saying that because I was thinking about it. It took me 10 f****** years to get over it. I finally am over that."

Asked to expound what the judgements or assumptions she experienced were, Azarenka said: "I've been called that I'm cheating, that I'm faking, that I was trying to throw people off their game. It's everything that is so wrong about my character if somebody actually knows me.

"At some point I've heard that she has this thing that is bad or this thing is bad, whatever. At some point you're like, 'Really? Am I?'. Those doubts starts to creep in.

"Now I just don't care. I am more and more confident in what I know about myself, and I'm at peace with that. Those comments, judgements, they're there. I notice them. But I don't care."

Jelena Ostapenko was once again left bemoaning the electronic line calling system in place at the Australian Open after her quarter-final defeat to Elena Rybakina.

The Latvian did not blame the system for her loss, with Rybakina sealing a convincing 6-2 6-4 victory on Tuesday, but reiterated her belief that calls are being missed.

When asked following her fourth-round win against Coco Gauff whether she believed in the system, Ostapenko replied with a smile: "Honestly? No."

Speaking after her loss to Rybakina, she again smiled as she said: "I'm not really happy with the system they are using.

"A couple of times it was not even by a couple of centimetres. It was much more than that. But I cannot do anything about it, because it is the way as it is.

"First of all, [the calls] are really late sometimes. You already hit the ball, and then you hear 'out,' which is normally not the way it is with the line umpires. And second of all, some balls were quite, how you say, not a little out. They were [quite] a bit out and they were not called."

The number 17 seed – who suffered her first defeat in nine WTA-level quarter-finals – called for a return of the Hawk-Eye system and line judges, which was replaced at the Australian Open by the electronic system in 2021.

"Honestly, my personal opinion, I wish it would be the Hawk-Eye system and the line umpires, because I feel like that way it's more precise, and much [fewer] mistakes, in my opinion," the 2017 French Open champion added.

"... I think also, that way it looks a little better for me on the court how it is. Not just calling-wise, but in general how the court looks, because with no line umpires, for me, it looks a little empty."

Ostapenko was under no illusion that her own performance had not been at the level it was when she beat Gauff, and suggested that her participation in the mixed doubles late on Monday was a factor.

"I think in general today the level of the match was I think much lower than the previous one," she said. "I felt like me and Coco, we had a really high level of tennis and we played really well. It's a little shame that I couldn't bring this level of the tennis today.

"Obviously [Rybakina] was serving well, but I felt like already in the second set when I had the longer rallies with her, I was winning mostly, so that was my goal to make her play.

"I felt like maybe mixed doubles yesterday was a little bit not the right decision to play that late. But in general I think I can take only positive things out of this week, because it's only the beginning of the season, and if I keep working and keep playing the same way, I think I can be dangerous player."

Victoria Azarenka is through to her first Australian Open semi-final in a decade after beating Jessica Pegula in straights sets.

Azarenka had not reached the last four at Melbourne Park since going on to retain her title in 2013, but ended that wait with an impressive 6-4 6-1 victory over the third seed on Tuesday.

The 33-year-old from Belarus will do battle with Elena Rybakina for a place in the final following a commanding display on Rod Laver Arena.

Azarenka, the 24th seed, stormed into a 3-0 lead and although Pegula got back on serve at 5-3, she was a set down after being broken for a second time.

The experienced Azarenka clinically grasped her first break-point opportunity of the second set but Pegula hit straight back with a break of her own in the next game.

She was unable to turn the tide, though, as an inspired Azarenka dominated the remainder of the set with another two breaks and losing only a further two points behind her serve.

Azarenka, a winner of two mixed doubles grand slam titles since her last major triumph at this tournament 10 years ago, wrapped up the victory in an hour and 37 minutes.

 

Azarenka moves level with Graf

This quarter-final win for the former world number one took her tally of main-draw victories at the Australian Open to 47.

She is now level with the great Steffi Graf in sixth place on the list of the most women’s singles main-draw triumphs in this tournament in the Open Era.

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Azarenka – 0/2
Pegula – 3/2

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Azarenka– 17/20
Pegula– 19/31

BREAK POINTS WON

Azarenka – 5/13
Pegula – 2/4

Elena Rybakina's Wimbledon success last year is helping her to progress at the Australian Open.

The number 22 seed reached the semi-finals after a convincing 6-2 6-4 victory against Jelena Ostapenko on Tuesday.

Fresh from beating world number one Iga Swiatek in the fourth round, the only thing that slowed Rybakina down against the 17th seed was a 20-minute rain delay in the first set.

She got through her quarter-final in just an hour and 19 minutes of play, and pointed to her experience at Wimbledon, which culminated in her maiden grand slam win.

"Of course I got all the experience at Wimbledon, and it's helping me now this time here in Australia and I know what to expect," she said.

"For sure it's just easier in this case after Wimbledon. [I am] feeling good on the court and just really enjoying every match I'm playing here."

Rybakina's serve was a key weapon again, hitting 11 aces and winning 76 per cent (29 of 38) of points on her first serve.

She now has a total of 29 aces in the tournament, the most by a women's player and more than her previous three Australian Open campaigns combined.

"[It is] tough to say for me, because I think compared to other girls, I'm quite tall," she said when asked if hitting aces are an under-used part of women's tennis. "I mean, there [are] other girls which are also strong and tall, but for sure I think it's not only about the height.

"I'm happy with my serve. I guess everybody else needs to think if, in this aspect, they need to work more or not, because some girls, they are fine maybe not with the speed, but they have good angles on the serve. They are opening the court. I think everybody is different, and everybody just trying to do what's best for them on the court."

The 23-year-old will face either Jessica Pegula or Victoria Azarenka in the final four, and is excited by once again being included in the business end of a grand slam.

"Of course in the beginning of the tournament, it feels like, 'Oh, it's such a long tournament'," she said. "Now it seems already close. I'm trying to focus just on one match.

"For sure it's close, that's why everybody I think is now going to try even harder, fight for every ball. It's only good players left. For sure it's going to be tough matches."

Elena Rybakina is through to the semi-final of the Australian Open after a convincing 6-2 6-4 victory against Jelena Ostapenko on Tuesday.

Rybakina, 25, became the first man or woman from Kazakhstan to win a grand slam when she lifted the Wimbledon trophy in 2022, and she is now two matches away from securing her second.

Against Latvia's Ostapenko, Rybakina had a clear power advantage, illustrated by her 11 aces while conceding only one.

She secured a break in the first game of the match, and quickly grabbed a second to race through the first set in 33 minutes. 

It was Ostapenko who snagged the early break in the second set, but she was unable to consolidate it, failing to hold serve in each of her next two chances to allow Rybakina to claw back in front.

Ostapenko will rue some wasteful play as she finished with more break point opportunities than her victorious opponent, but was only able to convert one of her eight chances.

Rybakina will meet the winner between Jessica Pegula and Victoria Azarenka in the semi-final.

Data Slam: Rybakina adds a new string to her bow

With 29 aces so far, Rybakina leads all women at this year's Australian Open in the category. That figure is a testament to her overall serving improvement, as well as what is now her deepest run down under, with more aces this tournament than her past three Australian Open campaigns combined.

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Rybakina – 11/3

Ostapenko – 1/1

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Rybakina – 24/21

Ostapenko – 19/22

BREAK POINTS WON

Rybakina – 4/6

Ostapenko – 1/8

Magda Linette revealed "emotional management" has been key to her best grand slam singles run after upsetting Caroline Garcia to move into the Australian Open quarter-finals.

The unseeded Pole beat fourth seed Garcia 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena on Monday to move into the last eight for the first time.

Linette had never been beyond the third round of a major before this tournament, but she will face Karolina Pliskova for a place in the semi-finals.

The world number 45 will celebrate her 31st birthday next month and feels she is benefitting from being more mature after breaking new ground in her 30th main-draw appearance at a grand slam.

She said: "We worked a lot actually about my emotional management. I think dealing with some kind of losses, but not necessarily match losses, just even throughout the match losses, like small mistakes here and there.

"I think I've never really dealt with them very well. They carried over later on for next point, then another one. It was taking me just too long to get over them.

"I think of course we work so much on my game. We worked a lot on changing the directions and the depth of the ball.

"But I think this approach of really trying to look a little bit different, grow up a little bit emotionally, like that was a big thing for us as a team. All of us approached it. It wasn't only me, but it was the coaches that brought this to me."

Asked how she works on emotional control, Linette added: "I think it's just how do you try to approach the defeats and the mistakes, and are you making the right mistakes, can you then recognise it and move on and deal with them a little bit better. I think I was just getting too negative and too harsh on myself because I feel I'm quite demanding.

"On the other hand when you try to go to that other spectrum, when you're okay with everything, it's also not the best. You really need to stay on top of things and be proactive with it, which ones you're doing good and not.

"I think recognising it, you try again and again and again. Eventually you start recognising which ones were the right ones to deal with.

"It's very difficult. I'm [almost] 31 and I'm just getting it right, so obviously it was one of the toughest things for me. But I'm happy. I'm happy that I have this opportunity, that actually I tapped into something that finally I'm breaking something that you can't really measure it in any way. For me, it was something really difficult to change."

Aryna Sabalenka is hoping she can move to another level in a "new beginning" this year after beating Belinda Bencic to reach a first Australian Open quarter-final.

The fifth seed from Belarus saw off Bencic 7-5 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena on Monday and will face Donna Vekic in the last eight.

Sabalenka has not dropped a set in her four matches in the first grand slam of the year at Melbourne Park and has been installed as the favourite to take the title after Iga Swiatek's exit.

The 24-year-old played in a second successive US Open semi-final last year but has never made it is far as a championship match at a major.

Sabalenka won the Adelaide International 1 before heading to Melbourne and is optimistic she can kick on in 2023.

She said: "I want to believe that the way I'm working right now, the way I'm on the court right now, this is the new beginning, and this is the next step. So I really want to believe that it's going to really help me."

Sabalenka has endured struggles with her serve, but appears to have put that behind her after addressing the issue.

She added: "I worked a lot on my serve. I was keep trying, keep believing, keep changing. Then I worked on my, like, biomechanics.

"Basically that's it. But I was doing everything. I thought it's mentally, but it wasn't. We changed a lot of things on how we work on my serve. We tried to work more, less. We tried so many different things.

"In the end of the season when I start working with the biomechanics guy, he helped me a lot. I think from there, everything started to kind of get on that level."

Croatian Vekic ended 17-year-old Czech Linda Fruhvirtova's impressive run with a 6-2 1-6 6-3 victory.

Elena Rybakina believes she can become the best player in the world if she performs as she did in the first week of the Australian Open after beating Iga Swiatek.

Wimbledon champion Rybakina claimed the scalp of the top seed on Sunday, winning 6-4 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena to reach the quarter-finals.

Swiatek was in a class of her own last year, winning eight titles – including the French Open and the US Open – to firmly establish herself as the best player in the world.

The Pole was the favourite to win the Australian Open for the first time, but the 25-ranked Rybakina sent her packing to set up a showdown with Jelena Ostapenko.

Rybakina made history with her fourth-round win, becoming the first woman representing Kazakhstan to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

The 23-year-old knows she has plenty to work on, but feels she can rise to the top of the rankings if she continues to improve and consistently match the high standards she has set at Melbourne Park.

Asked if she can be the best in the world when she's at her best: "Every opponent is really tough, and for sure for me I think there are still many things to improve.

"If I perform like I did this week and consistently, I will say that I can be number one, I can beat anyone. For now, I need to find my consistency."

Rybakina felt she was rewarded for taking such a positive approach against Swiatek.

"For sure when you play against the number one player, I think you have really nothing to lose. I knew that I had to be aggressive from the first ball because she's a great mover, and she defends really well.

"So I was trying to just attack her from the first ball, and it really worked well."

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