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Streaking Aryna Sabalenka Beats Belinda Bencic for First Australian Open Quarterfinal

Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in action against Belinda Bencic of Switzerland during her fourth round match on Day 8 of the 2023 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 23, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia (Photo by Robert Prange/Getty Images

Tennis tedium is Aryna Sabalenka’s stated goal for this Australian Open.

Sabalenka is merging monotony with major volatility in Melbourne Park.

Driving the ball with bruising intent, Sabalenka slammed 32 winners beating Belinda Bencic 7-5, 6-2 to charge into the Australian Open quarterfinals for the first time.

The 24-year-old Sabalenka said her goal is to be “a little bit boring on court.”

If this is her idea of boring, dull has seldom been so dangerous.

In a battle of Adelaide champions, Bencic burst out to a 4-2 start before Sabalenka started stepping into her shots and unloading on her forehand.

The woman wearing the tiger tattoo on her left forearm fired 15 forehand winners compared to two for the Swiss as Sabalenka surged through 11 of the final 14 games in an 87-minute triumph.

“I’m super happy with the win today; she’s an unbelievable player,” Sabalenka said. “She plays so good I’m super happy with the level today, just really happy with this win.

“It takes me a little while to understand that negative emotions not going to help you on the court. You just have to stay strong and believe no matter what and do everything you can to get back in the score. I’m super happy with my mind-set today.”

A red-hot Sabalenka raised her 2023 record to 8-0 sweeping all 16 sets she’s played.

The fifth-seeded Sabalenka will be a favorite against quarterfinal opponent Donna Vekic though the Croatian has dominated their head-to-head. Vekic has won five of six meetings with Sabalenka, whose lone victory came in the 2019 San Jose semifinals.

The 64th-ranked Croatian fended off 17-year-old Czech Linda Fruhvirtova 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 to reach her second major quarterfinal and first since the 2019 US Open. Vekic erased five of six break points in a two hour, seven-minute triumph.

The subplot of today’s first match on Rod Laver Arena was the presence of Bencic’s coach Dmitry Tursunov, who served a successful sting as Sabalenka’s former coach. Knowing his former charge’s strengths and weaknesses is one things, but trying to beat this more mature and composed version of Sabalenka is an entirely different task.

Much has been made of Sabalenka cleaning up the polluted serving that plagued her at times last year as she hit 39 double faults in her opening 2022 losses. Even with a tricky sun overhead today, Sabalenka served with control. She won 25 of 32 first-serve points, matched Bencic with four aces and hit just four double faults.

“I mean, definitely today I felt like I couldn’t handle her power,” Bencic said. “I think that was the biggest difference. But still, you know, I don’t feel like this is a really bad loss. Like, she’s for sure very in form right now and also playing very good.

“So I’m not, like, discouraged, I’m not like super devastated after this loss. I feel like I had a great start of the year. Yeah, I feel like I just want to go back and work harder and come back.”

Working with a biomechanic coach helped Sabalenka realized her service struggles were not mental, they were technical. 

“I worked so hard. Even when my serve was—how did you say—’disaster’? I worked a lot on my serve. I was keep trying, keep believing, keep changing. Then I worked on my, like, biomechanic.

“Basically that’s it. But I was doing everything. I thought it’s mentally, but it wasn’t. We changed a lot of things on how we work on my serve. We tried to work more, less. We tried to, I don’t know, so many different things. In the end of the season when I start working with the biomechanic guy, he helped me a lot. I think from there, everything starts to kind of getting on that level.”