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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Thursday January 26, 2023

Elena Rybakina

Elena Rybakina powered past two-time champion Victoria Azarenka to reach her second major final.

Photo Source: Getty

Elena Rybakina won the Wimbledon title in 2022, but due to the tour’s decision to not offer ranking points from the Championships due to Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players, she didn’t receive the 2,000 ranking points that went with it.

Tennis Express

At times, during the second half of the 2022 season, Rybakina didn’t garner the respect that typically comes with winning tennis’ most prestigious title, either.

At the 2023 Australian Open, the talented Kazakh is making up for lost time and reinforcing the notion that she is a forced to be reckoned with and a potential future World No.1.

Rybakina fired past two-time champion Victoria Azarenka on Thursday night in Melbourne to reach her second Grand Slam final in just over six months, 7-6(4), 6-3, thanks to a poised performance that proved her big stage chops yet again..

“I’m super happy and proud,” Rybakina, who became the first woman to defeat three former Grand Slam champions - (Swiatek, Ostapenko, Azarenka) in a single Australian Open in 22 years, told the crowd.

Backing up her eye-opening takedown of World No.1 Iga Swiatek in the fourth round (6-4 6-4), Rybakina has notched victories over No.17 seeded Jelena Ostapenko (6-2, 6-4) and former World No.1 Azarenka in succession, and will face either Aryna Sabalenka or Magda Linette in Saturday evening’s final in Melbourne.

“For sure I got a little experience from Wimbledon, to be honest I just want to come on court and enjoy the moment, enjoy the atmosphere,” Rybakina said. “For sure I’ll try my best and fight, and hopefully I’m gonna win.”

On Thursday night in the first of two women’s semifinals in Rod Laver Arena, Rybakina’s game swept in and out of focus, but she managed to tune to the right frequency in the biggest moments to edge resurgent Azarenka in a tight opening set.

Rybakina missed 11 consecutive first serves at one point, and squandered a 5-3 lead, but she rallied from 0-40 down to hold for 6-5 and then surged ahead in the tiebreak to take the set.

A critical backhand miss on a second-serve return at 5-5, 30-40 seemed to set the tone for the tiebreak and what would come in set two.

The second set saw Azarenka’s level dip as Rybakina returned to form and sauntered to victory as she pummeled her opponents’ second serve relentlessly, winning 13 of 15 points against Azarenka’s second offering.

In total, Rybakina hammered 30 winners against 21 unforced errors, and she broke Azarenka’s serve five times from 11 break opportunities to win in one hour and 41 minutes.

Rybakina will make her long awaited Top-10 debut after the Australian Open if she wins the title or if Linette does not reach the final.


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