copy short urlprintemail
+ A
A -
Qatar tribune

PA Media/dpa


Aryna Sabalenka gave a statement of her intent at the Australian Open by powering past Belinda Bencic to reach the quarter-finals.

The Belarusian began the season by winning a title in Adelaide and is yet to drop a set in 2023 as she bids to win a first Grand Slam title.

Sabalenka has been knocking on the door for several years, reaching back-to-back semi-finals at the US Open and the last four at Wimbledon in 2021, but is yet to make a final.

Last year she began the season struggling to land her serve in the court but everything appears to have come together and Sabalenka was superb in a 7-5 6-2 victory over 12th seed Bencic, another in-form player, hitting 32 winners and only 18 unforced errors.

Consulting a biomechanical expert proved the key to fixing her serving issues and Sabalenka now sees it as a blessing in disguise.

“I’m super happy that this thing with my serve happened to me,” she said. “Before I wouldn’t be really open for that. I would be like, ‘You know what, my serve is fine, I don’t want to change anything’.

Actually, even when my serve was working, it wasn’t really right. “I was, in that moment, open for whatever. I was just like, ‘Please, someone help me to fix this serve.

“I want believe that the way I’m working right now, the way I’m on the court right now, this is the new beginning, and this is the next step.”

The conditions at Melbourne Park this year are clearly favouring the power players and Sabalenka will be a big favourite to make the final from the bottom half, particularly following the exit of fourth seed Caroline Garcia in another upset.

Next up for fifth seed Sabalenka will be a clash with unseeded Croatian Donna Vekic, who ended the run of 17-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova with a 6-2 1-6 6-3 victory.

Vekic was also a former teenage prodigy and made her debut here a decade ago but this is only her second Grand Slam quarter-final.

Former world number one Karolina Pliskova has slid virtually unnoticed through the draw, reaching the last eight with a 6-0 6-4 victory over Zhang Shuai.

Garcia ended last season by winning the biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals and arrived in Melbourne as one of the favourites but fell to a shock loss against 45th-ranked Magda Linette.

The Pole, who has unexpectedly gone further than her compatriots Iga Swiatek and Hubert Hurkacz, claimed a 7-6 (3) 6-4 victory to make the first Grand Slam quarter-final of her career.

copy short url   Copy