No.5 seed Aryna Sabalenka booked her place in her first Grand Slam final with a 7-6(1), 6-2 defeat of Magda Linette at the Australian Open.
Sabalenka, who claimed her 11th career title at the Adelaide International 1 three weeks ago, has now won 10 matches in a row, including a career-best 20 consecutive sets. The longest match winning streak of her career to date is 15, encompassing three titles at Ostrava 2020, Linz 2020 and Abu Dhabi 2021.
The 24-year-old had lost all three of her previous Grand Slam semifinals: to Karolina Pliskova at Wimbledon 2021, Leylah Fernandez at the US Open 2021 and Iga Swiatek at the US Open 2022. She becomes the fifth player in the Open Era to reach a major final following three or more semifinal losses, joining Gabriela Sabatini, Zina Garrison, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati.
Sabalenka will face Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in a final that will guarantee a brand new winner of the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup. Sabalenka has won all three of their previous meetings in three sets: at Wuhan 2019, Abu Dhabi 2021 and Wimbledon 2021.
How the match was won: The 1-hour, 33-minute contest was Sabalenka's third win in as many meetings over Linette, but easily the tightest. This month, she has spoken about her newfound calmness on court and her willingness to "become a little bit boring on court to reach my goals" -- qualities that she needed in order to come from a break down in the first set, and to close out a tense ending.
The fourth game of the first set was key. Linette had come out of the blocks with a clear counterpunching game plan and strong serving, while impatient errors flowed from Sabalenka's racquet. But with Linette serving at 2-1, 40-0, Sabalenka calmed her game down, and broke back for 2-2 with some patient point construction. Linette maintained her high level through the rest of the set, but Sabalenka's weight of shot enabled her to kick up a gear and dominate the tiebreak.
In the second set, Sabalenka raced out to a quick double-break lead, then showed resilience to hold off any potential turning points. At 4-1, she escaped three break-back points, the third with one of her six total aces, to hold for 5-1. Linette fended off three match points in the next game as Sabalenka's error count started to rise again. However, Sabalenka served out the match at the first time of asking, converting her fourth match point with a solid one-two punch.
In total, Sabalenka fired 33 winners to Linette's nine, outweighing her 25 unforced errors.
Sabalenka on being "boring": "I was trying to [do] less screaming after bad points or errors. I was just trying to hold myself, stay calm, just think about the next point.
"Actually, I'm not that boring, I think. I'm still screaming 'C'mon' and all that stuff. I don't think it's that boring to watch me. I hope so. Just less negative emotions.
"[After the first game,] probably before I would start screaming on everybody, feeling bad, starting to overhit balls. Today I was, like, OK, that's happened, that's fine. I'll just keep working, keep trying, and I think I will find my rhythm."
Sabalenka on being her own psychologist: "To be honest, I decide to stop working with a psychologist. I realized that nobody than me will help, you know?
"On the pre-season I spoke to my psychologist saying, 'Listen, I feel like I have to deal with that by myself, because every time hoping that someone will fix my problem, it's not fixing my problem. I just have to take this responsibility and I just have to deal with that.'
Yeah, I'm not working with psychologist any more. I'm my psychologist."
Linette on taking the positives from her first Slam semifinal: "Really, it's like point here and point there. That's what we actually already spoke a little bit with my coach. It's so nice that we actually said, 'Maybe on this point I could have done this a little bit different.'
"That means we are really on a good track, like we have a really good structure of what I'm going to do on the court. Just a little bit one point here, one point there. That's somewhere you want to be as a tennis player. We are really happy it's working and just the beginning."