No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus swept into her second Grand Slam semifinal in a row by defeating No.8 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, 6-1, 6-4, under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday night at the US Open.
World No.2 Sabalenka, who made her first major semifinal at Wimbledon earlier in the summer, dispatched this year's Roland Garros champion Krejcikova, and thus guaranteeing a first-time Grand Slam champion at this year's US Open.
Stat corner: Sabalenka had needed over two hours to fend off Krejcikova in three sets in their only prior meeting, which came on the indoor hardcourts of Linz at the tail-end of last season. But this time around, the Belarusian had no problems with an 86-minute victory.
Both players had won 42 tour-level matches coming into their clash, and with the victory, Sabalenka is now the current match win leader on the WTA, with 43. Krejcikova is tied with World No.1 Barty in second place.
The Sabalenka power game was on point, often behind her first-service, as she won over three-quarters of points when getting her first delivery into play.
Sabalenka was also overwhelming on return, collecting over half of Krejcikova's service points and converting four of her 10 break points in the affair. Sabalenka's 21 winners outpaced Krejcikova's 14, and the No.2 seed also had six fewer unforced errors than the Czech.
Sabalenka says: "Second [major] semifinal, and hopefully I can keep it up," Sabalenka said to the media, after her win. "That's amazing. I'm really proud of myself, and I'm really proud of my team that they're always working, they're always trying to find things where I can improve. This is what I am mostly proud of."
"I'm not really thinking about the draw, like how far can I go," Sabalenka continued. "I just start enjoying every match. It sounds simple, but with all the things going around, it's not easy to focus on each match, to enjoy it, to enjoy every fight, every challenge. This is everything I changed, I would say. My focus is step by step. It's working well."
"During the match I'm not really focusing on the problem," said Sabalenka. "I'm focusing on what should I do to win this match. I'm not really panicking or stressing about it. I'm just trying to stay smart and professional. I think this is what helped me today to win this match."
Key moments: Three double faults in the very first game of the match belied a nervy start for Sabalenka, but she still held serve, before breaking Krejcikova with a stunning overhead to lead 2-0. Krejcikova immediately pulled back on serve in the following game, but Sabalenka reclaimed her advantage by firing a backhand past the Czech to break for 3-1.
Two lengthy games followed, with differing results causing a lopsided scoreline: Sabalenka saved three break points to hold for 4-1, while Krejcikova double faulted on the fourth break point of the subsequent game to cede a 5-1 lead. Sabalenka would not relinquish that advantage, blasting rockets for a routine hold and a one-set lead.
Sabalenka extended her momentum into the second set, where she broke Krejcikova in the first game. The Belarusian started slowly in some service games down the stretch, but despite cleaner play by Krejcikova, Sabalenka never faced a break point in that set. Sabalenka played her best when it mattered most, storming through a love service game, with an ace for punctuation, to wrap up the win.
Next up: In the semifinals, Sabalenka will take on one of the surprising youngsters who have lit up the tournament: Leylah Fernandez of Canada. It will be the first meeting between Sabalenka and Fernandez.
World No.73 Fernandez notched her third Top 20 win in a row when she stunned No.5 seed Elina Svitolina via a third-set tiebreak earlier on Ashe Stadium. Prior to that win, Fernandez had defeated former World No.1 players and US Open champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber back-to-back.
"I was following her games," Sabalenka said, looking ahead to Fernandez. "She's playing well, moving well. I would say it's nothing to lose for her. She's a great player. She's fighting for every point.
"The crowd are there and they are supporting her really loud. I was practicing today, and we didn't really need to watch the score because we heard the crowd really yelling. It will be an interesting one. Really looking forward for this match."