Aryna Sabalenka ‘ready for a great battle’ as she books US Open semi-final place

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Celebrations from Aryna Sabalenka Credit: PA Images
Celebrations from Aryna Sabalenka Credit: PA Images

Aryna Sabalenka made it back-to-back US Open semi-finals with victory over Karolina Pliskova.

The Belarusian, who was beaten in the last four by Leylah Fernandez 12 months ago, dominated the first set before Pliskova found a second gear as she held off the Czech to secure a 6-1, 7-6 (7-4) victory in one hour and 23 minutes on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday.

Sabalenka, who trailed Kaia Kanepi 6-2, 5-1 in her second-round match, will bid to reach her first career Grand Slam final having also lost to Pliskova in the last four at Wimbledon last summer.

The 24-year-old was unable to play at Wimbledon this year because of the ban on Russian and Belarusian players, and used the time to train in Miami.

Having struggled horribly with her serve at the beginning of the year, hitting huge numbers of double faults, Sabalenka appears to have fixed the problem as she admitted that she no longer goes for big shots.

Her serve worked very well on Wednesday, with the sixth seed not facing a single break point and hitting three times as many winners as Pliskova.

The Belarusian raced into a 4-0 lead as her Czech opponent struggled to counter her aggressive groundstrokes. A third break earned her the opening set.

It was a much better display from Pliskova in the second set as it went according to serve with the former world No 1 saving the only break point of the set in game eight. And while the tie-breaker went back-and-forth, it was the Belarusian who came out on top.

“Today I expected a great level,” Sabalenka said in an on-court interview. “I expected a great level with long rallies. I wanted to stay in the match and make her work.”

She added: “Right now I’m not going for aces I’m just trying to put my serve on the big targets.”

The former world No 2 – who hasn’t won a title since she lifted the Madrid Open in May 2021, finishing runner-up in Stuttgart and Rosmalen this year – will face either world No 1 Iga Swiatek or eighth seed Jessica Pegula for a place in Saturday’s US Open women’s final.

“They are both tough opponents. I will have to fight and do my best. I’m ready for a great battle,” Sabalenka said.

The winner of that clash will face either Ons Jabeur or Caroline Garcia in the final.

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