Melbourne [Australia], January 26 (ANI): Elena Rybakina advanced to her second major final on Thursday, defeating two-time winner and former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka in the semi-finals here at the Rod Laver Arena.
Playing in her first Australian Open semifinal, Rybakina produced a stunning performance against Azarenka 7-6(4), 6-3 to clinch a spot in the final. Seeded No.22 in Melbourne, Rybakina will face either No.5 Aryna Sabalenka or Poland's Magda Linette on Saturday's final.
Rybakina finished the one-hour and 41-minute match with 30 winners, including 9 aces, to 21 unforced errors. Azarenka hit 26 winners to 27 unforced errors.
Rybakina and Azarenka traded punches from the baseline in a high-calibre one-hour opening set until the former No. 1 broke first for a 3-1 advantage, breaking on an intriguing cat-and-mouse point at the net. After 24 minutes, the Wimbledon winner was up 4-3 after breaking back immediately and settling on serve.
After gaining some composure, Rybakina broke for a 5-3 advantage but was unable to win the set. With a running forehand down-the-line pass, Azarenka saved set point and broke to regain service. This time, Rybakina had to maintain her serve under pressure. Rybakina rescued her serve from 0-40 in the most important game of the set to hold a 6-5 lead.
Despite serving at 48 per cent, Rybakina won the set and the tiebreak with a flawless performance, finishing with 20 wins to Azarenka's 16 unforced mistakes. In the end, Azarenka had 13 unforced errors and 17 winners.
Rybakina established herself as a strong front-runner in the competition, having dropped just one set. She soon broke Azarenka and maintained her lead to take the second set 3-1 with a set in hand. Rybakina made a second break to take the lead 5-2 as Azarenka's serve started to deteriorate. A sixth double fault from Azarenka gave Rybakina a triple-break point and the Wimbledon champion converted after Azarenka's final shot landed in the net. (ANI)