Rybakina eases past Ostapenko into Australian Open semifinals
Reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina kept her hopes for a second Grand Slam title alive by cruising into the Australian Open semifinals for the first time on Tuesday.
The No.22 seed from Kazakhstan ousted another Grand Slam champion, No.17 seed Jelena Ostapenko, 6-2, 6-4 in a high-octane quarterfinal clash on Rod Laver Arena.
Turning the rivalry around: 2017 Roland Garros champion Ostapenko had dominated her head-to-head with Rybakina in the past. Latvia’s Ostapenko had prevailed in their two previous meetings in straight sets, at 2019 Linz and 2021 Eastbourne.
But on Tuesday, it was Rybakina who maintained her momentum from her upset of World No.1 Iga Swiatek two days ago. It took Rybakina 1 hour and 19 minutes to fend off Ostapenko and reach her second career Grand Slam semifinal.
Just as she had in many of her matches during her Wimbledon run, Rybakina took command with her exceptional serving. The 23-year-old slammed 11 aces during the match, putting her back ahead of Karolina Pliskova for the most aces so far this fortnight — 35 in total.
Ostapenko found brilliant groundstrokes throughout the match, with only five fewer winners than Rybakina. However, Rybakina was advantageous when attacking the Ostapenko second service, winning half of those points en route to a 4-of-6 break point conversion rate.
Key moments: It was a routine opening frame for Rybakina, despite a 20-minute break for the roof to close at 3-1 due to rain. But Rybakina was under more pressure from her opponent in the second set, where excellent forehands helped Ostapenko claim an early 2-0 lead.
However, Rybakina immediately pulled back on serve, then worked her way out of danger in the following game, saving four break points with a mix of fiery shots and one deft drop volley winner before leveling matters at 2-2.
A sturdy forehand gave Rybakina the decisive break as she eked ahead 3-2, and she eased to victory from there. Rybakina saved some of her best serves for last, firing three aces in the final game, including on her third match point.
Looking ahead: Rybakina will have to stare down another big name in the semifinals: either No.3 seed Jessica Pegula, the highest-ranked player remaining in the draw, or two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka.
Pegula and Azarenka will face off in Tuesday’s Rod Laver Arena night session.
More to come…
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