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Saturday too long to wait for soaring Sabalenka, into maiden Slam final

When you’re in the kind of form Aryna Sabalenka is, you want to play every day

Aryna Sabalenka Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia – January 26, 2023 Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka reacts during her semi final match against Poland’s Magda Linette (AI/Reuters/Panoramic)

Late-night matches can throw one’s body clock out of whack. It certainly seemed to be the case for Aryna Sabalenka on Thursday, thrilled to reach her maiden Grand Slam final. She spoke in her post-match interview about “tomorrow’s final”, and had to be corrected – it will be on Saturday evening.

“I want to play tomorrow!” she laughed.

No wonder, in form like this. The new, calm Sabalenka has already said plenty about her revised demeanour on court, and it’s paying dividends. Going into the final, she is on a ten-match winning streak, having not dropped a set throughout that run.

She is also piling on the power. It was pointed out to her that her forehand is fizzing across the court as fast as some of the men’s efforts – but she was surprised to learn that.

“To be honest, I think I hit really slow balls today!” she grinned. “Thank you! I’ve got good genetics, I guess.”

She also has a great track record with recent tiebreaks, winning nine of her last ten (the only one she dropped was against Caroline Garcia in the WTA Finals). Her first-set tiebreak on Thursday against Magda Linette was the turning point for the match, where she finally found her groove.

“I would say that I didn’t start really well, and in the tiebreak I found my rhythm, started trusting myself and started going for the shots,” she reflected afterwards. “It was great tennis from me on the tiebreak.”

She will return to her career-high ranking of world No 2 regardless of the result on Saturday when she faces Elena Rybakina for the title.

Their three previous matches have all gone to three sets – which suggests the Rod Laver Arena crowd may be in for an epic.

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