Top-seeded Sabalenka beats Azarenka to set up a Brisbane final against Rybakina | Tennis News - Hindustan Times
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Top-seeded Sabalenka beats Azarenka to set up a Brisbane final against Rybakina

AP |
Jan 06, 2024 04:42 PM IST

The win extended Sabalenka’s streak to 15 in Australia, including a title run in Adelaide to start 2023 before her Grand Slam breakthrough at Melbourne Park

Aryna Sabalenka overpowered two-time champion Victoria Azarenka in a 6-2, 6-4 win Saturday that earned her a spot in the Brisbane International final against Elena Rybakina, a rematch of last year’s Australian Open championship decider.

Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus gestures after winning her semi-final match against Victoria Azarenka(AP)
Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus gestures after winning her semi-final match against Victoria Azarenka(AP)

The win extended top-seeded Sabalenka’s streak to 15 on Australian soil, including a title run in Adelaide to start 2023 before her Grand Slam breakthrough at Melbourne Park and has given her momentum for the year's first major.

Her 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win in the Australian Open final last January was the highlight of Sabalenka’s five wins over Rybakina in their seven career meetings.

Sabalenka fired 10 aces and hit 35 winners against Azarenka, who won back-to-back Australian Open titles in 2012 and '13 and is also a two-time champion in Brisbane.

She broke her 34-year-old compatriot's serve three times and saved all three break points she faced.

Azarenka appeared to hurt her right knee in her last service game, but continued the match.

“She played amazing tennis, like the whole week, especially tonight,” Sabalenka said. “I really hope that she’s OK and she’ll be ready for Melbourne. I wish her a speedy recovery.”

Sunday's final will be the first to feature the top two seeds in Brisbane since 2015, when No. 1 Maria Sharapova held off No. 2 Ana Ivanovic in three sets.

Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon champion, had 26 winners and committed just 10 unforced errors as she advanced 6-3, 6-2 over 19-year-old Linda Noskova.

She has conceded just 12 games across four straight-set wins and spent less than four hours on court in the key tune-up event for the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 14.

The men's final could also feature the top two seeds.

No. 1 Holger Rune advanced with a 6-4, 7-6 (0) win over Roman Safiullin.

The No. 8-ranked Rune will be aiming for a fifth title on the ATP tour when he faces either second-seeded Grigor Dimitrov or Jordan Thompson on Sunday.

“It’s exactly how I wanted it to be, to get the most amount of matches as possible,” Rune said of his run in Brisbane. “It’s a great challenge tomorrow to try to see where I’m at when it really matters."

Since opening with a tough win over Andy Murray, 2017 champion Dimitrov has only conceded eight games.

Thompson produced the biggest upset of the tournament when he saved three match points and rallied to beat 22-time major winner Rafael Nadal in an almost 3 1/2-hour quarterfinal on Friday night.

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