Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia – January 26, 2023 Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka celebrates winning her semi final match against Poland’s Magda Linette. Photographer Carl Recine
Aryna Sabalenka surged into the Australian Open final with a 7-6(1) 6-2 win over unseeded Pole Magda Linette on Thursday to extend the red-hot Belarusian’s unbeaten start to the year and book a clash with Elena Rybakina.
Adelaide champion Sabalenka has not dropped a set en route to 10 wins in 2023 but made a poor start in chilly conditions on Rod Laver Arena, dropping her serve to love in the opening game before breaking back with two blistering backhands.
The fifth seed heaped the pressure on Linette’s serve in the first-set tiebreak with her power and precision to pull away and wrapped it up when her opponent sent one long, before taking full control in the next set with an early break.
Sabalenka had failed to get over the semi-final hurdle on three previous occasions at Grand Slams but was not to be denied this time, as she raced ahead 4-1 and saved three breakpoints to close out the contest with a forehand winner.
Up next for Sabalenka is Russian-born Kazakh Rybakina, after the Wimbledon champion got past another Belarusian and two-times Melbourne Park winner Victoria Azarenka 7-6(4) 6-3 in the first semi-final.