Aryna Sabalenka advances to the Australian final after dominating Coco Gauff

Aryna Sabalenka, the defending champion, made history on Thursday by defeating Coco Gauff in the US Open final and becoming the first female finalist in the Australian Open since Serena Williams.

At Melbourne Park, Sabalenka extended her winning run to 13 matches with a 7-6 (2), 6-4 triumph. She did this by attacking Gauff’s serve with her powerful returns.

“I was just ready for anything tonight,” Sabalenka remarked. “I was able to focus on myself.”

In Saturday’s title round, she will face either Dayana Yastremska or No. 12 Zheng Qinwen. Zheng was facing Yastremska, who was ranked 93rd, in their first-ever Grand Slam semifinal match.

Sabalenka is winning 13 straight matches at Melbourne Park, the venue of her Grand Slam debut the previous year. Here, in 2015, 2016, and 2017, Williams advanced to the finals three times in a row. Sabalenka will set her sights on becoming the first woman to win consecutive Australian Open titles since Victoria Azarenka in 2012 and 2013.

After winning the championship in Auckland, New Zealand, Gauff entered the semifinals of 2024 undefeated. The 19-year-old American was trying to become the first player to win the US Open and Australian Open titles back-to-back since Naomi Osaka in 2020–21. She was on a 12-match winning streak in majors.

Though she had figured out how to defeat Sabalenka in September in New York to earn her first major title, she was at a loss for solutions against the only player in the final four who had advanced to the semifinals in Australia.

The first set had six service breaks, with both players losing opportunities to serve it out.

Despite Sabalenka’s five-point lead and missed set point, Gauff held strong and went on a four-game run to grab a six-point advantage. Additionally, Gauff was unable to finish it off due to Sabalenka’s explosive returns, which were still giving her problems.

With a 5-1 lead, Sabalenka quickly won the tiebreaker. “Coco, Coco” chants were heard around Rod Laver Arena, but Gauff was unaffected by them.

Sabalenka received five more set points over thirty minutes after her initial one. With a huge serve that went wide, she won the second of those.

In the opening set, Gauff was only able to win points on three of her seventeen second serves; this caused her to exert more effort and result in double faults.

Up until Sabalenka’s service break in the ninth game, the second set was close. When Gauff ended a 12-shot rally with a forehand winner, she wasted her first match point.

After one hour and forty-two minutes, Sabalenka sealed the win with an ace down the middle for a second match point.

“I really enjoy playing [Gauff]. She’s an incredible player. Win or lose it’s great matches,” Sabalenka added.

“I really hope in the future we’re going to play many more finals. Of course, I hope I win them all,” she laughed to herself.

After Sabalenka defeated Gauff in straight sets to go to the Australian Open final, Coco Gauff and Aryna Sabalenka shared an embrace. Joel Carrett/EPA
Following the match, Sabalenka paid tribute to tennis legends in the audience, including as Evonne Goolagong Cawley, who was commemorating the 50th anniversary of her first Australian Open victory, and Billie Jean King.

Sabalenka remarked, “I couldn’t dream [of] playing in front of you.” “Thank you for everything you’ve done for our sport. It’s a privilege to play in front of you.”

During her post-match interview, she autographed a towel that will be put up for auction, with the money raised going to support women and children impacted by domestic abuse.

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