Australian Open: Rybakina crushes Ostapenko, to meet Azarenka in semis

Elena Rybakina
Elena Rybakina in action against Jelena Ostapenko. Photo: Reuters/Hannah Mckay

Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina became the first player into the Australian Open semifinals after outmuscling Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4 in a one-sided contest on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday.

The Russian-born Kazakh looked sharp from the start and only a 25-minute delay to close the stadium roof against a passing shower prevented her from wrapping up the opening set within a half-an-hour of arriving on court.

Former French Open champion Ostapenko looked unable to cope with Rybakina's pace and power in the opening stanza but ramped up her own fierce groundstrokes to break for a 2-0 lead at the start of the second.

Rybakina, who ousted top seed Iga Swiatek in the fourth round, broke straight back, however, and saved four break points with some brilliant tennis in the next game to consolidate.

The 23-year-old rode the momentum to break her Latvian opponent again for a 3-2 lead and then it was only a matter of looking after her impressive serve.

There were some jitters as Rybakina served for a place in her second Grand Slam semifinal but she sealed the deal on her third match point with her 11th ace of the contest.

Elena Rybakina
Elena Rybakina celebrates after winning her quarter final against Jelena Ostapenko. Photo: Reuters/Hannah Mckay

"I'm super happy to be in the semifinals for the first time," said Rybakina. "Of course, I was nervous, particularly in the last game, but I'm happy I managed my emotions. I played really well today."

Ostapenko was clearly second best but might take solace at her best Grand Slam showing since she reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2018, a year after she won the Roland Garros title.

Victoria Azarenka reacts after winning the quarterfinal against Jessica Pegula. Photo: Reuters/Carl Recine

Victoria Azarenka rolled back the years as the two-time champion crushed third seed Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-1 to reach the semifinals and remain on course for her third Grand Slam crown.

Azarenka, the last woman to defend the title after her 2013 triumph, raced into a 3-0 led over American Pegula in the first set before the highest seed left in the women's draw finally held serve.

Pegula found her rhythm playing closer to the baseline and controlling the rallies to break back but Belarusian Azarenka found another gear to move ahead before both players failed to hold serve.

Former world No. 1 Azarenka took the decisive lead, however, and closed out the match to set up a clash with Rybakina.

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