Aryna Sabalenka set up a semi-final with surprise-package Magda Linette on Wednesday at the Australian Open, where Novak Djokovic will later step up his bid for a 22nd Grand Slam title.
Belarusian Sabalenka looks red-hot favourite to win her first major crown after another ruthless display in defeating Croatia’s Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-2 at Rod Laver Arena.
Fifth-seeded Sabalenka is the highest remaining seed left in a women’s draw that has been upended by shocks.
The match was closer than the score suggested, but Sabalenka is in scintillating form – she is yet to drop a set in Melbourne and has won all nine matches in 2023.
It is a far cry from a year ago, when she struggled badly with her serve and was reduced to tears at an Australian Open warm-up tournament.
“It feels really special to be in the semi-finals here, it was a tough match,” said Sabalenka, 24, who was competing in her first Australian Open quarter-final.
“I’m super happy with the win and it was so great to play here today, the atmosphere was unbelievable.”
Sabalenka will play unseeded Linette for a place in Saturday’s final after she marched into her first major semi-final at the age of 30.
Linette stunned former world No 1 Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 7-5 to continue flying the flag for Poland after the shock exit of world number one Iga Swiatek.
“I’m so emotional, I can’t really believe it,” said Linette, ranked 45 in the world.
“It’s a dream come true. I’m super grateful and happy. Thank you for cheering and supporting, I really needed this.
“So we keep going. I don’t want to get too excited because we are still in the tournament,” added the Pole, who will break into the top 30 for the first time.
Two-time Melbourne champion Victoria Azarenka will face Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina in the other semi-final.