Australian Open: Rybakina beats Azarenka to reach first final at Melbourne Park

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Elena Rybakina reached her first Australian Open final with a straight-sets victory over Victoria Azarenka on Rod Laver Arena.

 

Wimbledon champion Rybakina was not at her best but came from a break down in the opener and went on to win 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 on Thursday.

 

Rybakina struggled with her first serve, but a below-par Azarenka was unable to capitalise in her first Australian Open semi-final since retaining her title a decade ago.

 

The Kazakh will face Arnya Sabalenka or Magda Linette in her second grand slam final on Saturday.


Rybakina, the 22nd seed, started with a double fault but there were no signs of nerves as she followed that up with three aces to hold, but Azarenka earned the first break with a well-constructed point that she ended with a volley to lead 3-2.

Azarenka was unable to consolidate that break, though, as a combination of power and precision enabled Rybakina to hit straight back and the 23-year-old was 5-3 up following an unforced error from her experienced opponent.

Rybakina was unable to serve out the set as the battling two-time champion conjured up a majestic forehand winner on the run, saving a set point before breaking back.

There was frustration for 24th seed Azarenka when she saw three break points come and go in the next game as Rybakina endured huge struggles with her first serve, but won a tense, error-strewn tie-break when the former world number one sprayed a forehand wide.

Azarenka saved a break point first game of the second with a sublime cross-court forehand winner and held with an ace, but Rybakina was able to secure the break for a 2-1 lead.

Rybakina wasted a great chance to go 4-1 up when she missed a simple forehand, but she was serving for the set after Azarenka also got a forehand all wrong.

She was unable to serve it out, but a flat Azarenka bowed out following a poor service game that she ended by crashing a backhand into the net.


Rybakina overcomes another major hurdle

That is three major champions Rybakina has seen off to reach her maiden Australian Open final.

She beat strong favourite and world number one Iga Swiatek in the fourth round and got past Jelena Ostapenko before toppling Azarenka.


ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Rybakina– 9/3
Azarenka– 3/6

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Rybakina– 30/21
Azarenka– 26/27

BREAK POINTS WON

Rybakina – 5/11
Azarenka– 3/8