BRISBANE: World number two Aryna Sabalenka beat Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-4 at the Brisbane International on Saturday to book a tantalising final against Elena Rybakina in what will be a rematch of their 2023 Australian Open title clash.
Sabalenka made her Grand Slam breakthrough by lifting the trophy at Melbourne Park last year but lost to Rybakina in the Indian Wells final and Beijing quarterfinals before winning the latest chapter of their rivalry at the WTA Finals.
The Belarusian can improve her 5-2 win-loss record against Rybakina on Sunday and bag her first trophy this season ahead of her title defence at the Jan. 14-28 Australian Open.
Top seed Sabalenka broke for a 3-1 lead with a desperate return from deep that drew an error from her compatriot Azarenka at the net and overcame wobbles in her next two service games to claim the opening set.
She saved two break points to clinch the ninth game of the second set and completed the win when eighth-seeded Azarenka dropped serve in the following game.
World number four Rybakina earlier defeated Czech teenager Linda Noskova 6-3, 6-2 to reach her 15th career singles final and fourth in Australia.
“I love matches against Elena,” said Sabalenka, who is on a 15-match winning streak in Australia having also lifted the title in Adelaide last year.
“It’s always high-quality ... I hope it’s going to be a great battle tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Top seed Holger Rune overcame Roman Safiullin 6-4, 7-6(0) in the semifinals of the men’s draw and takes onGrigor Dimitrov who beat Jordan Thompson 6-3, 7-5.
“I think I did well to be honest. When he was hitting hard I was there with some good counter-punches,” said the 20-year-old Rune, who reached his ninth tour-level final.
“I managed to close it out in two sets, which is good for the energy. I’m playing better tennis every day and physically I’m feeling great, so I’m happy.” Agencies