The women's 2023 Australian Open final is set: Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus will take on Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan after the two each won their semifinal matches in straight sets.
Fifth-seeded Sabalenka, 24, took down Magda Linette of Poland, 7(7)-6(1), 6-2 after a back-and-forth battle in the opening set.
Linette actually led 2-0 early before Sabalenka rallied to tie 2-2 before the two traded games until a pivotal tiebreak. Sabalenka won the first six points and took the first set handily. She tallied 20 wins to Linette's seven in the first set. Linette again won early in the second set before Sabalenka took over and won the next five games and eventually the match.
Stunning, Sabalenka 🙌— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 26, 2023
The No.5 seed will play Elena Rybakina for the women's singles title!@SabalenkaA • @wwos • @espn • @eurosport • @wowowtennis • #AusOpen • #AO2023 pic.twitter.com/gjjCFJZ0SD
Not only did this win vault Sabalenka to her first career Grand Slam finals appearance, but it also marked her 10th consecutive victory in 2023 and 20th consecutive set win. She's only the third female player to accomplish this feat after Anna Smashnova in 2002 and Agnieszka Radwanska in 2013. The furthest Sabalenka advanced prior to this year's Australian Open was the US Open in 2022 when she lost to eventual champion and No. 1 seed Iga Świątek.
Part of Sabalenka's game is a strong forehand, and she was told after the match that her average speed is "up there with some of the men."
"I didn't start really well but in the [first-set] tiebreak, I found my rhythm, started trusting myself, started going for my shots," Sabalenka said. "I actually think that I hit really slow balls today ... I've got good genetics, I guess."
Coincidentally, we almost had an all-Belarus final with Sabalenka's countrywoman, 24th-seeded Victoria Azarenka, also in the semifinals. But the 22nd-seeded Rybakina cruised to victory in straight sets after a tiebreak in the opening frame.
Rybakina, 23, won 7(7)-6(4)-6-3. Azarenka double-faulted in the tiebreak to fall behind 4-2 which helped Rybakina capture the first set. The two traded games in the second set before Rybakina built a 5-2 lead thanks to four more double faults from Azarenka.
"I couldn't play really aggressive tennis, the conditions were different, the ball was not 'going' so much, but in the end I managed to win," Rybakina said after the match. "I will try my best in the final, of course."
Rybakina is another powerful hitter who won her first career Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2022. She leads the Australian Open with 35 aces with 53 percent unreturned, according to The Guardian.
"Elena [Rybakina] is an amazing player. Super aggressive, and she already has a grand slam," Sabalenka added. "It's going to be great, I'm really looking forward to this final."