MELBOURNE: Defending champion Aryna Sabalenka and emerging Chinese star Zheng Qinwen will play for the 2024 Australian Open women’s crown after setting up an intriguing climax to Melbourne’s season-opening grand slam.
Sabalenka exacted sweet revenge over Coco Gauff to power into a second successive Open final with 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 victory on Thursday night before Zheng ended the inspired run of Ukrainian qualifier Dayana Yastremska with an equally impressive 6-4 6-4 win.
After losing last year’s US Open title decider to Gauff at Flushing Meadows, Sabalenka turned the tables on the American teenager in a blockbuster semi-final at Rod Laver Arena.
Sabalenka is now a hot favourite to topple 12th-seeded Zheng on Saturday night and become the first player since her fellow Belarusian Victoria Azarenka in 2013 to successfully defend the women’s title at Melbourne Park.
Zheng, the WTA’s 2023 most improved player of the year, fittingly progressed to her maiden grand slam final on the 10th anniversary of compatriot Li Na’s watershed Australian Open victory in 2013. Agencies