Misc Tennis

Sabalenka repays Gauff, faces Zheng in Australian Open final

Copy Link

Defending champion Aryna Sabalenka avenged a US Open final loss to Coco Gauff and became the first woman since Serena Williams to reach back-to-back finals at the Australian Open on Thursday.

Sabalenka attacked Gauff’s serve with her powerful returns and unloaded 33 winners in the 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory that extended her winning streak to 13 matches at Melbourne Park.

“It was an incredible match,” Sabalenka said. “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, no matter what the score was, I just keep trying my best, keep fighting for it.

“It’s one more to go, and I’ll do my best.”

Sabalenka will face Zheng Qinwen in Saturday’s championship decider after the No. 12 seed defeated Dayana Yastremska 6-4, 6-4. Zheng and No. 93-ranked Yastremska were both playing in their first Grand Slam semifinal.

“It feels unbelievable. I’m super excited to have such a great performance today and arrive in the final,” said Zheng, who hasn’t faced a player ranked in the top 50 in six rounds.

Second-seeded Sabalenka is on a 13-match roll at Melbourne Park, where she made her Grand Slam breakthrough last year. Williams reached consecutive finals here in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Sabalenka will set her sights on becoming the first woman to win consecutive Australian Open titles since Victoria Azarenka in 2012 and 2013.

“I’d say emotionally I’ll be very ready to fight. Not going crazy,” Sabalenka told reporters. “Because when you play your first final, you get emotional and rush things sometimes. When you’re third time in the finals, you’re like, OK, it’s a final. It’s OK. It’s just another match. You’re able to separate yourself from that thing. Just focus on your game.”

Gauff went into the semifinals unbeaten in 2024 after winning a title in Auckland, New Zealand. The 19-year-old American was on a 12-match winning streak in majors and attempting to be the first player since Naomi Osaka in 2020-21 to win the US Open and Australian Open titles back to back.

She had worked out how to beat Sabalenka in New York in September to win her first major title but didn’t have the answers this time against the only player in the final four with semifinal experience in Australia.

“Tough match for me tonight. Overall a positive tournament,” Gauff said. “I had chances in both sets, but she played better tonight. I think it just came down to a couple of points, and that’s tennis.


Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at www.espn.com – TENNIS…