Elena Rybakina advanced to the 2023 Australian Open final after beating Victoria Azarenka 7-6(4), 6-3 in Thursday’s semi-final. Rybakina needed an hour and 41 minutes to get the win.
Azarenka was the player who had better records going into the match. Not only was the former world no. 1 undefeated in the semi-finals in Melbourne she also had a 5-0 win-to-loss record against the Kazakh. However, from the first point of the match, Rybakina put the 33-year-old through her paces.
Australian Open: Elena Rybakina too good for past champion
The 23-year-old’s crisp shot-making left Azarenka unable to do anything and she’d to resort to playing a waiting game for her opponent to slow down. In the fifth game, Azarenka did get a foothold in the match as she went up a break but her own serve let her down and she immediately gave the break back. Two games later, after much groundstrokes had been traded ferociously, it was Azarenka’s turn to give Rybakina a break in the eighth game. But as before Rybakina’s serve lived up to the occasion and she conceded the break back. Both players held on to their serve for the rest of the set leading to the enforcing of the tie-break. As in the set, the tie-break, too, swung between the two players with Rybakina claiming a couple of mini-breaks but unable to tame her serve. In the end, two unforced errors from Azarenka sealed the set for her opponent to go up in the match.
Unlike in the first set, Rybakina’s game clicked in the second set. Her shots fired potently even as she was able to get her serve back in order. On the other hand, Azarenka went on to face a break point in each of her service games. The two-time Australian Open winner saved a break point en route to winning her opening service game and then a couple again, in the fifth game, but the match looked to have gone away from her.
As the set proceeded unforced errors piled for Azarenka and she went down two breaks to give Rybakina the chance to serve for the match in the eighth game. But while Rybakina failed to bring up match point at that time, she had three match points on Azarenka’s serve while the latter served in the ninth game to push the match further. Azarenka saved the first with a winner but an unforced error put paid to her dreams in the next point.
Rybakina won 71% of her first-serve points to Azarenka’s 63%. She also won 78% points on return on the latter’s second serve which dented her prospects severely. Rybakina had 30 winners and 21 unforced errors for the match while Azarenka had 26 winners and 27 unforced errors.
The Australian Open final’s Elena Rybakina’s second Major final after 2022 Wimbledon final. She now awaits Azarenka’s compatriot, Aryna Sabalenka, or Magda Linette.