Aryna Sabalenka sets up shot at Australian Open title by outclassing Magda Linette

Aryna Sabalenka celebrates her win to book her spot in the final against Elena Rybakina.

Aryna Sabalenka celebrates her win to book her spot in the final against Elena Rybakina. Photo: Getty

Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and rampant world No.5 Aryna Sabalenka will play for the 2023 Australian Open crown after storming to a pair of straight-set semi-final triumphs in Melbourne.

Rybakina ended Victoria Azarenka’s inspired run to be the first woman through to the final with a 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 victory before Sabalenka outclassed unseeded Pole Magda Linette 7-6 (7-1) 6-2 on Thursday night.

Runner-up to Caroline Garcia in last year’s WTA Finals, Sabalenka is unbeaten, yet to drop a set in 10 matches since in Australia this summer and now hugely relieved to finally reach her maiden grand slam final.

Playing in her fourth major semi-final, the 24-year-old finally found success with victory on Thursday night over Linette.

She got off to a nervous start, giving up her opening serve to trail 0-2, but settled into the match and regrouped to win the next three games.

The tie-break was one-way traffic with Sabalenka blasting winners off both sides from the back of the court as she stormed through 7-1.

While veteran Linette toiled hard, she lacked the firepower of her opponent, who took full control, hitting 33 winners to just nine.

Up 5-1, Sabalenka had three match points on the serve of world No.45 but Linette was able to claw her way back.

The stay of execution only lasted until the next game, as Sabalenka served out the match, with an unplayable forehand icing the win.

“I’m super happy. Super happy that I was able to get this win,” Sabalenka said, having lost her previous three slam semis.

“I would say that I didn’t start really well and then, in the tiebreak, I kind of find my rhythm and just start trusting myself, start going for the shots, and, yeah, it was great tennis from me.”

She predicted a tough final on Saturday night against Kazakh Rybakina, who also boasts a big serve.

“She’s playing great tennis and is super aggressive and she’s already won one grand slam so she had great experience playing in a final,” Sabalenka said.

Linette, who had never previously gone beyond the third round of a grand slam, can take some solace with a move up to a career-high ranking of 22 on the back of her Open charge.

Past meetings

Rybakina has lost her only three meetings with Sabalenka, all in three sets, but is a different player as she eyes a second grand slam title in less than eight months.

“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 because it’s really amazing,” she said.

“We see how it’s going to go, but for sure I try my best. I fight and, yeah, hopefully I’m going to win.”



2021 Wimbledon, grass, R16, Sabalenka 6-3 4-6 6-3

2021 Abu Dhabi, hard, QF, Sabalenka 6-4 4-6 6-3

2021 Wuhan, hard, QF, Sabalenka 6-4 1-6 6-3.


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