Elena Rybakina, Aryna Sabalenka advance to Australian Open final

Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports

Fifth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka powered into the Australian Open final where another first-time finalist, No. 22 seed Elena Rybakina, awaits on Saturday.

Rybakina eliminated two-time Aussie Open champion Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (4), 6-3, before a boisterous crowd that included the “Original Nine” women’s tennis stars courtside.

Sabalenka (Belarus) steamed past unseeded Madga Linette (Poland) and has not lost a set (20-0) in 2023.

“I want to say a big thank you from the players because it’s unbelievable what you have done for us,” Rybakina said, gesturing toward Billie Jean King and peers seated courtside.

The Australian Open honored the “Original Nine” in a prematch ceremony, marking the equal rights push in 1970 from King and fellow Americans Rosie Casals, Peaches Bartkowicz, Julie Heldman, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey and Valerie Ziegenfuss, and two Australians, Judy Dalton and Kerry Melville Reid.

Power and precision are the common traits exhibited by the women’s singles finalists, who’ll meet for the third time and first since Rybakina moved to 3-0 against Sabalenka at Wimbledon in 2021. Rybakina (Kazakhstan) is the reigning Wimbledon champion and beat two former grand slam champions, Iga Swiatek and Jelena Ostapenko, on the way to the Australian Open final.

“I’ve got a little bit of experience from Wimbledon,” she said. “I want to come on court and enjoy the moment and atmosphere because it’s amazing to play in front of you guys. We’ll see how it’s going to go – for sure, I’ll try my best. I’ll fight and, hopefully, I’m going to win.”

Sabalenka ended the dream run of Linette, who lost serve with chances to extend each set. Sabalenka said it was in the first-set tiebreak where she was able to get into a groove.

“I found my rhythm and started trusting myself, started going for the shots and it was great tennis from me in the tiebreak,” she said. “To be in the final of these kind of tournaments is amazing, to feel this atmosphere on these kinds of courts.”

–Field Level Media

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