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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Wednesday January 24, 2024

Sabalenka and Gauff

Two semifinals, and two vastly different narratives. Join us for a preview of Thursday's women's singles semifinals at the Australian Open.

Photo Source: Getty

And then there were four! It’s semifinal time at the Australian Open and Day 12 will see four title-hungry women contest their semifinal matchups in Melbourne.

Tennis Express

Let’s have a look at the matchups…


Gauff and Sabalenka, REMATCH

Coco Gauff vs Aryna Sabalenka
Head-to-Head: Gauff leads 4-2
Hard Court Head-to-Head: Gauff leads 3-2
Last meeting: Gauff d. Sabalenka 2023 US Open final, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.

If the top half of the women’s draw is defined by chaos and wide openness (we’ll get to that down the page) then the bottom half is defined by sturdiness and starpower. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together? Contesting the semifinal will be No.2-seed and defending champ Aryna Sabalenka and the 2023 US Open champion (who just so happened to defeat Sabalenka in last year’s US Open final) Coco Gauff.

Gauff rallied from a set down to defeat Sabalenka at last year’s US Open final, capping a memorable run to the title that featured three wins from a set down. After defeating Barbora Krejcikova in the quarterfinals, Sabalenka wasn’t shy about the fact that she wanted another shot at Gauff.

“I love it,” Sabalenka said of the impending semifinal. “After the US Open, I really wanted that revenge, and, I mean, that's a great match. It's always great battles against Coco, with really great fights. I'm happy to play her, and I'm super excited to play that semifinal match.”

That’s a clear indication of how Sabalenka, who has lost a mere 16 games in five matches, and never surrendered more than three games in a single set, feels about her game right now. She rides a 12-match Australian Open winning streak and is embracing the role of defending champion, playing loose and vibrant tennis that has simply been too good for every player she has faced.

On the flipside we have a Gauff who struggled mightily in the quarterfinals, defeating Marta Kostyuk in an error-filled contest that featured 51 unforced errors, including 25 off the forehand side, from the American.

So, will Gauff’s confidence suffer on Thursday, or will she turn the page on a sketchy performance and instead take confidence from the fact that she was able to win ugly in the quarterfinals? She has won 12 consecutive Grand Slam matches after all, so why shouldn’t she be confident? Tuesday’s win wasn’t a perfect performance, but Gauff has proven in the past that she can win with plan, b, c or d – whatever it takes.

“I felt like I was going for shots that I normally make and was missing and missing by, like, a lot, not even close,” Gauff admitted after reaching her third career Grand Slam semifinal. “So I think that was frustrating. Just glad I was able to get through today.”

One thing that Gauff knows she can count on is her mental toughness. It was there in the quarterfinals, and she knows it will be there against Sabalenka, whether she has her “A” game or not.

“I think that's gotten me through a lot of matches, and I feel like mentally I'm one of the strongest out there, and I try my best to reset after each point,” she said.

Qualifying Queen vs Queenwen

In one of the more unlikely Grand Slam semifinals that we’ve seen in a while, Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska, the first women’s singles qualifier to reach the last four at the Australian Open since 1978, will face China’s Zheng Qinwen, the No.12 seed who is making her ninth career appearance in the main draw at a major.

Both Zheng and Yastremska are playing their maiden major quarterfinal, but it is Zheng who will be considered the favorite, based on ranking and recent pedigree.

Zheng has yet to face a player ranked inside the Top 50 during her run to the semifinals, but the Chinese star stared down the barrel of a one-set deficit and came through with flying colors on Wednesday night against Anna Kalinskaya, the World No.75, to win 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-1.

Yastremska, ranked 93, has been a pleasant surprise this week, ripping through eight matches including qualifying to reach her maiden major semifinal. The Ukrainian became just the fourth player in the last 40 years at the Australian Open to reach the quarterfinals by beating all Top 50 opponents, joining Gabriela Sabatini (1994), Martina Hingis (1997) and Dominika Cibulkova (2014) on that pristine list.

She made it five Top-50 wins on Wednesday, easing past 50th-ranked Linda Noskova, the woman who toppled World No.1 Iga Swiatek in the third round.

Yastremska upset former Grand Slam champions Marketa Vondrousova (round one) and Victoria Azarenka (fourth round) en route to the semis.

Crazy as it sounds, Yastremska entered this Australian Open on a seven-match losing streak at the Slams. She did experience a breakthrough in 2019, when she reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon, but went through struggles in the interim, due to injuries and a doping suspension.

She's a lot better than recent results indicate, and she's shown it time and time again during the Aussie fortnight.

Per the WTA, Yastremska was the first player born in the 2000s to hold a Top 100 ranking.

This week in Melbourne, she is finally fulfilling her rich promise, and the powerful 23-year-old will most certainly have a shot to reach the final against Zheng, in a battle of first-time Grand Slam semifinalists.


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