Web Stories Thursday, February 29

MELBOURNE: Aryna Sabalenka overpowered Barbora Krejcikova 6-2 6-3 in a brutally swift quarter-final on Tuesday (Jan 23) to keep her Australian Open title defence firmly on course and set up a showdown with US Open champion Coco Gauff.

After the first two quarter-finals on Rod Laver Arena had run for a combined seven hours, Sabalenka came out firing as if to ensure that the court schedule would be back on track before the final clash of the day.

The Belarusian blew the former French Open champion off the court at times and extended her winning streak at Melbourne Park to 12 matches as she reached the last four having conceded only 16 games.

“I think it was a really great match today. I played really great tennis and I really hope I can just keep playing that way or even better as I always say,” she said.

“I’ve been working so hard the last year and this pre-season. I think it’s all about hard work. Give it all in the practice court so you can be ready for the matches as good as you can.”

The second seed hammered her serves and groundstrokes over the net accompanied by her trademark yelps, breaking the ninth seeded Czech three times to only the one hiccup herself and clinching the first set after little more than 30 minutes.

Sabalenka rattled through her first service game of the second set to love on the back of a couple of piledriver forehands and was soon feasting on the Czech’s second serve to break her opponent again.

The atmosphere on the main showcourt was subdued as the one-sided contest continued with almost everything Krejcikova tried to do to change the course of the match meeting with a howitzer of a response from the other side of the net.

In the sixth game, Krejcikova again managed to break Sabalenka – only the second player to do so at Melbourne Park this year – and followed that up with a hold to reduce the deficit to 4-3.

Krejcikova had lost the opening set in three of her four matches on the way to the last eight but there was to be no way back against the Belarusian.

Sabalenka held with a couple of huge serves then broke the Czech to love to set up the semi-final date with American Gauff, who denied Sabalenka her second Grand Slam crown in the final at Flushing Meadows last September.

With all but one of the seeds in the top half of draw, including world number one Iga Swiatek, having already departed, the meeting between Sabalenka and Gauff could go a long way to deciding who takes home the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy.

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