Women’s world number two Aryna Sabalenka has blasted her way into a blockbuster Brisbane International final against world number four Elena Rybakina.
Sabalenka said it would be “a great battle as always” against a woman she had two wins apiece with last year.
The final is the same as last year’s Australian Open, which Sabalenka won in three sets, but she only needed two to dismiss fellow Belarusian Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-4 in their semifinal.
The victory took Sabalenka’s Australian win streak to 15 matches after titles in Adelaide and her maiden grand slam at Melbourne Park last year.
But it was the manner in which she dismissed two-time slam winner Azarenka that was impressive.
Sabalenka seized her opportunity from the outset and broke the Azarenka serve for a 3-1 lead when she somehow played a ball that was behind her and drew a sloppy error from Azarenka at the net.
Sabalenka broke her countrywoman for the second time to take the opening set, finishing it off with a brutal crosscourt forehand winner, her 18th of the set after a long rally.
She would hit an astonishing 35 winners for the match, 10 of them aces.
While Azarenka was under constant pressure on serve, Sabalenka — who had serious serving woes as late as 2022 — didn’t face any break points until late in the second set, and when she did saved them with some ferocious serves and groundstrokes.
The late chances were all Azarenka would have and when she failed to convert two of them at 4-all in the second set, Sabalenka pounced to break and finish the match as Azarenka dumped a backhand into the net.
Top-seeded Sabalenka has not dropped a set all tournament, but neither has her opponent in the final, second-seeded Kazakh, Rybakina.
Earlier, Rybakina did her bit to set up the high quality Brisbane International decider, cruising past Czech teen Linda Noskova 6-3 6-2 in the semifinal.
Kazakhstan’s world No.4 — the 2022 Wimbledon champion and runner-up in Melbourne last year — has been in sublime touch in the Queensland capital this week.
Noskova, 19, had spent more than eight hours on court to reach the final four and was no match for the 24-year-old Rybakina, who eased through in less than half that time.
Rybakina won 80 per cent of points on her first serve and saved all four break points in Saturday’s one-sided clash.
Sabalenka said the much vaunted serve of Rybakina is going to be the most difficult aspect of the match to deal with.
“We both serve really well and we both play super aggressive tennis and that’s why all the matches are really tight because we both put each other under so much pressure,” Sabalenka said.
“It is definitely not easy to deal with such an aggressive serve.
“I will just try and use all the opportunities I have on her serve because it is definitely not easy to play someone serving that big.”