Wimbledon champion Rybakina, 5th seed Sabalenka to clash in Australian Open women's final

MELBOURNE, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- A new Australian Open women's champion will be crowned with reigning Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina and fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka to battle for the trophy after recording commanding victories in the semifinals on Thursday.

Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina hits a return against Belarus' Victoria Azarenka during their women's singles semi-final match on day eleven of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 26, 2023. (Photo: AFP)

Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka smiles after victory against Poland's Magda Linette during their women's singles semi-final match on day eleven of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 26, 2023. (Photo: AFP)

Strong-serving 22nd seed Rybakina ended the resurgence of former champion Victoria Azarenka, who won titles in Melbourne in 2012 and 2013 but couldn't wind back the clock on this occasion.

Rybakina of Kazakhstan fired down nine aces in her 7-6 (4), 6-3 victory over 33-year-old Azarenka to reach her second Grand Slam final.

"I'm super happy to be in the final. Today it was a bit tougher for me because it was different conditions," said Rybakina, who noted the blustery conditions on Rod Laver Arena.

"I couldn't play really aggressive tennis...but I'm happy that in the end I managed to win."

"For sure, I got a lot of experience from Wimbledon and, to be honest, I just want to come on court and really enjoy the moment, enjoy the atmosphere."

The 23-year-old Rybakina has proven her shock Wimbledon triumph is no fluke after a stellar run in Melbourne yielded impressive victories over top seed Iga Swiatek in the fourth round and 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the quarterfinals.

In a see-saw of a first set against 24th seed Azarenka, Rybakina's trusted serve occasionally deserted her, but she broke twice and then held her nerve in the tiebreak to draw first blood.

A confident Rybakina put the foot down in the second set to storm to a 5-2 lead with the chance to serve the match out.

But Rybakina nervously dropped her serve before immediately breaking to clinch her place in the final.

She will start as an underdog against Sabalenka, who has not dropped a set in the tournament.

Her flawless record continued when she swept past 45th ranked Magda Linette, whose dream run ended in her first Grand Slam semifinal.

The 24-year-old Sabalenka's 7-6 (1), 6-2 victory ended her Grand Slam semifinal jinx having been unsuccessful in three previous attempts.

"I'm super happy to get this win. I didn't start great but found my rhythm and trusted myself in the tiebreak," said Sabalenka, who hit 33 winners to Linette's nine.

Eyeing a major upset, Linette of Poland showed no signs of nerves at the beginning and immediately broke a rattled Sabalenka, who eventually found her groove to hit back with little separating the players.

But Sabalenka found the type of form that has propelled her to title favoritism with a dominant tiebreak peppered with ferocious groundstrokes to overwhelm Linette.

The Belarusian grabbed a stranglehold with an early break in the second set and never relented to finish the match in style with a powerful forehand winner.

Sabalenka, who is riding a 10-match win streak, is set to start favourite in Saturday's decider although she doesn't boast Grand Slam final experience like Rybakina.

"She is an amazing player and playing super aggressive," said Sabalenka, who has won all three matches against Rybakina although each of them went to three sets.

"She already has a Grand Slam title, so she has the experience of playing in a final. It's going to be a great battle."

The men's semifinals will headline action on Friday with hot favourite Novak Djokovic playing unseeded American Tommy Paul, while third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas meets 18th seed Karen Khachanov.