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Aryna Sabalenka Sets up Australian Open Final vs. Elena Rybakina

Aryna Sabalenka will play Elena Rybakina in the Australian Open final on Saturday. Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images

Grand Slam ghosts and double fault demons don’t scare Aryna Sabalenka.

Winless in three prior major semifinals, Sabalenka hammered haunting away with conviction today.

Powered by a blistering tiebreaker, a sharp Sabalenka stopped semifinal debutant Magda Linette 7-6(1), 6-2 charging into her maiden major semifinal at the Australian Open. 

“I’m super happy that I was able to get this win,” Sabalenka said. “I mean she’s an unbelievable player. She played great tennis. I’m just super happy right now. The atmosphere was unbelievable.”

The undefeated Sabalenka raised her record to a perfect 10-0 sweeping all 20 sets she’s played this season in a superb start to 2023 that vaults her to No. 2 in the rankings.

The woman whose spasmodic serve was such a mess last January, she was averaging 16 double faults through her first six matches, has streamlined her serve, sharpened her baseline attack and solidified her status as a Grand Slam contender. 

The No. 5-seeded Sabalenka smacked six aces against two double faults and more than tripled Linette’s winner total: 33 to 9.

The 2021 AO doubles champion Sabalenka will play Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina in Saturday’s final.

The No. 22-seeded Rybakina defeated two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka 7-6(4), 6-3 in today’s opening semifinal.

It was Rybakina’s third consecutive victory over a Grand Slam champion following her 6-2, 6-4 win over former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the quarterfinals and a  6-4, 6-4 upset of reigning Roland Garros and US Open champion Iga Swiatek in a fourth-round win that was her first over a world No. 1.

Overlooked at the outset where she was relegated to Court 13 in the first-round, Rybakina has ripped a tournament-best 44 aces in six tournament victories.

“To be honest I just want to come on court and enjoy the moment and the atmosphere because it’s really amazing to play in front of you guys so thank you so much,” Rybakina told Rod Laver Arena fans. “We’ll see how it’s gonna go. For sure I’ll try my best and fight and hopefully I’m gonna win.”

This Happy Slam final shapes up as a slugfest between two of the premier power players in the sport. Sabalenka is 3-0 lifetime vs. Rybakina, but all three of those matches have gone the distance and all were played before the Kazakh became a Grand Slam champion.

“She’s an amazing player,” Sabalenka said of Rybakina. “She’ splaying great tennis, super aggressive and she’s already got one Grand Slam, so she kind of had this experience playing the final and yeah it’s going to be a great battle. I’m really looking forward to this final.”