Sabalenka extends winning streak in Australia to 14 before semi vs Azarenka | Tennis News - Hindustan Times
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Sabalenka extends winning streak in Australia to 14 ahead of Brisbane semi-final against Azarenka

AP |
Jan 05, 2024 05:10 PM IST

Australian Open champion Sabalenka extended her winning streak in Australia to 14 matches with a 6-1, 6-4 win over fifth-seeded Daria Kasatkina on Friday night

Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka will be on opposite sides of the net in the Brisbane International semi-finals more than four years after teaming up on the same court in a Fed Cup semi-final against Australia.

Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus celebrates after her women's singles match against Daria Kasatkina of Russia at the Brisbane International(AFP)
Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus celebrates after her women's singles match against Daria Kasatkina of Russia at the Brisbane International(AFP)

Australian Open champion Sabalenka extended her winning streak in Australia to 14 matches with a 6-1, 6-4 win over fifth-seeded Daria Kasatkina on Friday night.

She won a title in Adelaide last year before her Grand Slam breakthrough at Melbourne Park, the start of a 2023 season that also included a run to the US Open final and the semi-finals at the French Open and Wimbledon.

Sabalenka was utterly dominant in the first set of her night match in front of a Pat Rafter Arena crowd that included actor Jude Law, pinning Kasatkina to the baseline with her deep, powerful ground strokes.

She peeled off 32 winners and dropped just one service game in 1 & 1/2 hours.

Azarenka, a two-time champion at both the Australian Open and in Brisbane, had a tougher run in the opening match of the day, needing 2 & 1/2 hours to advance 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 over a hot-and-bothered former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Second-seeded Elena Rybakina only needed to play seven games in her quarterfinal match.

Rybakina, who won Wimbledon in 2022 and was runner-up at the Australian Open last year, won the first set 6-1 before 11th-seeded Anastasia Potapova retired from their match with an abdominal injury. '

She'll next play Linda Noskova, who beat 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva 7-5, 6-3.

Sabalenka and Azarenka, both born in Minsk, Belarus, albeit about nine years apart, have only played four times previously. Sabalenka leads their head-to-head encounters 3-1.

The 34-year-old Azarenka, a back-to-back Australian Open champion in 2012 and '13, clinched her quarterfinal victory three games after third-seeded Ostapenko's emotional outburst at chair umpire Julie Kjendlie.

“With Jelena, sometimes you just have to put on a helmet and try to stay in there,” Azarenka said. “She's an incredible player and a Grand Slam champion, and she's proved many times she can beat anybody on any given day.

“The quality of tennis was incredible, so to be able to go through ... I'm very proud.”

Azarenka hit 16 aces, had only two double-faults and moved well but struggled at times to handle Ostapenko's powerful groundstrokes in the second and third sets.

Ostapenko broke early in the third set with a backhand winner but wasn't able to consolidate as Azarenka broke back. When Azarenka lunged forward to retrieve a drop shot and won the point to hold for a 5-4 lead in the deciding set, Ostapenko questioned whether the ball had bounced twice.

“You make so much mistakes” the Latvian player told the umpire. "I never want you on my match again. You ruin my matches.”

Ostapenko lost the next two points but won four straight to hold serve and make it 5-5 before Azarenka went on a roll and won eight of the last nine points to reach the semi-finals again.

In the men's draw, top-seeded Holger Rune had a 6-2, 7-6 (6) win over James Duckworth to move into a semi-final against Roman Safiullin, who beat Matteo Arnaldi 7-6 (4), 6-2.

No. 2-seeded Grigor Dimitrov had a 6-1, 6-4 win over Rinky Hijikata to also reach the semi-finals.

He could next face Rafael Nadal, who will be aiming to extend his comeback tournament from a year-long injury layoff when he meets Australian Jordan Thompson in a quarterfinal nightcap on Pat Rafter Arena.

The 22-time major winner has had straight-sets wins over Dominic Thiem and Jason Kubler in his first couple of competitive matches since the 2023 Australian Open.

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