Aryna Sabalenka Gets Her Revenge On Coco Gauff To Reach Australian Open Final

Aryna Sabalenka got her revenge.

After losing to Coco Gauff in the U.S. Open final last summer, Sabalenka earned a measure of redemption by defeating the American, 7-6(2), 6-4 to reach the Australian Open final.

Sabalenka, last year’s Australian Open women’s champion, has yet to drop a set in the tournament. She has won 13 straight matches in Melbourne and is the first player since Serena Williams (2016-17) to reach back-to-back Australian Open finals.

Victoria Azarenka (2012-13) is the last woman to win back-to-back titles in Melbourne.

“After U.S. Open, I really wanted that revenge,” Sabalenka said after her quarterfinal victory.

After this latest win she told ESPN’s Rennae Stubbs she was thinking about the U.S. Open final — where she lost after taking the first set — “a little bit.”

“i was just keep telling myself, ‘Just pretend it’s a practice and keep trying your best, keep playing point by point and just focus ball by ball and the rest will take care of it later,’” Sabalenka said.

The world No. 2 will be a heavy favorite in the final against No. 12 Qinwen Zheng of China, who defeated qualifier Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine, 6-4, 6-4, to become the first Chinese woman since Li Na in 2014 to reach the final. Li won the championship that year.

Sabalenka routed Zheng in their only previous encounter, 6-1, 6-4, in the U.S. Open quarterfinals.

The tournament winner will take home more than $2 million U.S., while the runner-up receives more than $1 million.

“Any way it’s a final, any way it’s going to be a great battle, a great fight, and I’m really looking forward to that final and it doesn’t matter who I’m going to face,” she said. “I’m know that I’m going to go out there and do everything I can to get that win.”

Unlike the U.S. Open final, where Sabalenka got tight after taking the first set and lost in three, she clamped down to win in straight sets. She banged out 19 forehand winners to Gauff’s four. Gauff also helped Sabalenka’s cause by contributing nine double faults.

In the first set, Gauff led 6-5, 30-0 on her serve and was within two points of the set. But she missed a forehand on that point and was ultimately broken for 6-all.

Sabalenka won 11 of the next 13 points after that key point and rolled in the tiebreak, taking the first set with a service winner. Gauff failed to make a first serve in the breaker.

Gauff lost the first seven points of the set and trailed 2-0 as Sabalenka targeted her forehand, Gauff’s weaker wing. But Gauff stabilized her forehand and served aggressively to break back twice to take the 6-5 lead.

“I wish I could have made more first serves,” Gauff said. “I think that was the difference. She had a higher first-serve percentage, and it’s tough to also go for the second when you double-faulted a couple times.

“But that wasn’t the fault, either. Because I put myself in the position, I cleaned up the first set, put myself in the position to serve out the set. At the end of the day, it came down to a couple of points.”

In the second set, Gauff fought off a break point to hold for 4-3.

But serving at 4-all, Gauff was finally broken when she sailed a two-handed backhand wide on Sabalenka’s fifth break point of the set.

Serving for the match at 5-4, Sabalenka had her first match point halted when Gauff hit a forehand winner down the line.

But Sabalenka then served an ace to earn her second match point, and promptly hit a service winner to close it out.

“It was definitely a tough match but I was kind of ready that she was going to try her best to come back,” Sabalenka told Stubbs. “She did it already in the previous match, so I was ready. I just really enjoy playing her. It’s always great fights, it’s always great battles. It was a great match, she’s a great player and I’m super happy to get this win.”

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