Reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina kept her hopes for a second Grand Slam title alive by cruising into the Australian Open semifinals for the first time on Tuesday.
The No.22 seed from Kazakhstan ousted another Grand Slam champion, No.17 seed Jelena Ostapenko, 6-2, 6-4 in a high-octane quarterfinal match on Rod Laver Arena.
"I think of course I got all the experience at Wimbledon, and it's helping me now this time here in Australia and I know what to expect," Rybakina told the press, after her win. "Feeling good on the court and just really enjoying every match I'm playing here."
Turning the rivalry around: 2017 Roland Garros champion Ostapenko had dominated her head-to-head with Rybakina in the past. Latvia's Ostapenko had prevailed in their two previous meetings in straight sets, at 2019 Linz and 2021 Eastbourne.
It was Rybakina who maintained her momentum from her upset of World No.1 Iga Swiatek two days ago. It took Rybakina 1 hour and 19 minutes to fend off Ostapenko and reach her second career Grand Slam semifinal.
Just as she had in many of her matches during her Wimbledon run, Rybakina took command with her exceptional serving. The 23-year-old slammed 11 aces during the match, putting her back ahead of Karolina Pliskova for the most aces so far this fortnight -- 35 in total.
"I would say that I always served big, but for sure when I started to work with my coach, we did a lot of changes on the technique," Rybakina said. "Like this, I gained even more power. It's my weapon on the court, and of course we are trying to work on it. It's always a lot to improve.
"I guess everybody else needs to think if, in this aspect, they need to work more or not, because some girls, they are fine maybe not with the speed but they have good angles on the serve. They are opening the court. I think everybody is different, and everybody's just trying to do what's best for them on the court."
Meanwhile, Ostapenko found brilliant groundstrokes during the match, with only five fewer winners than Rybakina. However, Rybakina was advantageous when attacking the Ostapenko second service, winning half of those points en route to a 4-of-6 break point conversion rate.
Key moments: It was a routine opening frame for Rybakina, despite a 20-minute break for the roof to close at 3-1 due to rain. But Rybakina was under more pressure from her opponent in the second set, where excellent forehands helped Ostapenko take an early 2-0 lead.
Rybakina immediately pulled back on serve, then worked her way out of danger in the following game, saving four break points with a mix of fiery shots and one deft drop volley winner before leveling matters at 2-2.
A sturdy forehand gave Rybakina the decisive break as she moved ahead 3-2, and she eased to victory from there. Rybakina saved some of her best serves for last, firing three aces in the final game, including on her third match point.
"Both of us, we are very aggressive players, and me and her were trying kind of to push each other, like put pressure from the first ball," Rybakina said.
Looking ahead: Rybakina will have to stare down another big name in the semifinals in two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka.
Rybakina is 1-0 against Azarenka.