Rybakina adapts to power past Ostapenko and into Australian Open semi-finals

[24-01-2023 10:13 AM]

Ammon News - Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina continued her march toward a second Grand Slam title after dominating Jelena Ostapenko in the Australian Open quarter-finals on Tuesday.

In a battle between two of the WTA Tour's power hitters, it was Rybakina, behind her dominant serve, who eased to a 6-2, 6-4 victory in 1hr 19min on Rod Laver Arena. The Kazakh 22nd seed will face either American Jessica Pegula or Belarusian Victoria Azarenka for a place in the final.

"I am super happy to be in the semi-finals. It was an amazing atmosphere," Rybakina, 23, said. "Of course, I was nervous, especially in the last game, to be honest. Not as nervous as before the match. I am super happy that I managed with my emotions and I played very well today."

Rybakina had declared "she could beat anyone" after knocking out top seed Iga Swiatek in straight sets on Sunday and said she was targeting the No 1 ranking.

Based on her last two performances, the Kazakh is certainly backing up her words.

She was quickest out of the blocks behind her big serve, breaking Ostapenko immediately and hammering down three aces to reach 3-1.

Rybakina created another break point at 30-40 when a sudden cloudburst halted the 22nd seed's momentum. The players scurried from Rod Laver Arena while the roof was closed and the water mopped up.

"In Australia you never know. In the morning, one weather, then in a few hours it changes, so you have to be ready always," Rybakina said.

After a delay of almost half an hour, Ostapenko saw off the immediate danger but was powerless to prevent the aggressive Rybakina capturing the game on a second break two points later.

Rybakina's serving got her out of trouble in the next at 15-40 and she closed out the opening set – played under two different sets of conditions – in 32 minutes.

"Everybody needs to adapt," Rybakina said. "I think I did really well from the beginning of the match and continuing through the first set."

Ostapenko upped the power on her groundstrokes at the start of the second, breaking for 2-0 with a scream. But the calm Rybakina reeled off four games in a row to put the finish line firmly in sight.

At 6-5 serving for the match, the normally assured Russian-born Rybakina saw two match points saved before her 11th ace propelled her through.

"I am trying to be calm, but I need them and it helps a lot during the match," said the world No 25, who would be inside the top 10 had she received points for her Wimbledon win, where Russian and Belarusian players were banned. "There is a lot of energy from my box. Thank you to my coaches, to family and friends."

Former French Open champion Ostapenko, also in her first Melbourne Park quarter-final, had won both the pair's previous encounters.

After knocking out seventh seed Coco Gauff in the fourth round, the 25-year-old Latvian said her confidence was back, but it will have taken a dent after running into Rybakina.

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