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Australian Open 2024 results: Aryna Sabalenka beats Coco Gauff & faces Zheng Qinwen

Aryna Sabalenka hits a return against Coco Gauff at the Australian Open
Aryna Sabalenka demonstrated her power in a 13th successive win at the Australian Open

Australian Open 2024

Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 14-28 January

Coverage: Commentary from 08:00 GMT on Tennis Breakfast on Radio 5 Sports Extra and BBC Sounds, with selected live text commentaries and match reports on the BBC Sport website and app

Aryna Sabalenka remains on track to defend her Australian Open crown after reaching the Melbourne final by avenging her loss to Coco Gauff in last year's US Open showpiece.

Belarusian second seed Sabalenka won 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 against American fourth seed Gauff in a tense semi-final.

Both were edgy in an error-strewn first set with six breaks before Sabalenka pounced decisively late in the second.

Sabalenka will face Chinese 12th seed Zheng Qinwen in Saturday's final.

Zheng, 21, reached her first Grand Slam showpiece by ending Ukrainian qualifier Dayana Yastremska's incredible run with a 6-4 6-4 win in Thursday's second semi-final.

Zheng is aiming to become the second Chinese woman to win the Australian Open singles title - on the 10th anniversary of Li Na's famous victory.

"It feels unbelievable," Zheng said. "I'm super excited to have such a great performance and arrive in the final."

Sabalenka illustrates why she is title favourite

Anticipation for the contest between Sabalenka and Gauff at the opening Grand Slam of the season was high.

Both players had been impressive as they worked their way through the draw, setting up a rematch of their thrilling US Open final which 19-year-old Gauff edged in September to claim her first major title.

It took place under the roof on Rod Laver Arena - as did the second semi-final - because of persistent rain in Melbourne.

Sabalenka had been particularly dominant and, after showing resilience to recover from sticky spells against Gauff, still has not dropped a set over the past fortnight.

The 25-year-old Belarusian unleashed her explosive game on Gauff from the start, cracking 33 winners and attacking her opponent's second serve in a high-octane demonstration of her power.

While Sabalenka's style still often leads to errors, she seems more at ease at Melbourne Park this fortnight having the experience of lifting her first major title here.

Now, after keeping her composure to serve out victory, she is the first woman to reach back-to-back finals since Serena Williams in 2017.

"I think I was able to focus on myself and I was prepared for her moving really good and putting every ball back," said Sabalenka, who has reached at least the semi-finals of the past six majors.

"I had to be ready to make an extra shot and I was ready for tonight."

Coco Gauff looks disappointed in Australian Open semi-final
Coco Gauff was aiming for back-to-back Grand Slam titles

Gauff fulfilled what had long seemed her destiny by winning in New York, when she fought back from a set down to beat Sabalenka.

This time she was unable to repeat the feat as Sabalenka ended her unbeaten start to the 2024 season.

Gauff came to Melbourne on the back of winning a WTA title in Auckland and did not drop a set in her opening four matches.

But, after scraping past Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk in what she called a "bad" quarter-final, she looked extremely nervy in the early stages of the semi-final.

Gauff's tension was illustrated by six double faults in the first set, although she also showed her ability to mentally reset as she twice recovered from being a break down.

After soaking up so much pressure, Gauff broke for 6-5 but blew the chance to serve out the set from 30-0 and was punished as Sabalenka dominated the tie-break.

Gauff had to fight off more break points in the first and sixth games of the second set, with the pressure telling when loose errors from the baseline allowed Sabalenka to break for 5-4.

This time, Sabalenka did not allow the opportunity to slip from her grasp and earned the "revenge" she wanted to exact on Gauff for her Flushing Meadows defeat.

"It was a tough match for me," said Gauff, who looked close to tears while she left Rod Laver Arena.

"Overall it was a positive tournament. I had chances in both sets, but she played better. I think it just came down to a couple of points and that's tennis."

Zheng stops Yastremska emulating Raducanu

Zheng Qinwen celebrates reaching the Australian Open final
Zheng has hit more aces and won more first-serve points than any other player in the women's singles

Unlike Sabalenka and Gauff, neither Zheng nor Yastremska had ever played a Grand Slam semi-final match - and both were looking to emulate notable major triumphs of the recent past.

Zheng - an aggressive baseliner with a hefty serve - was aiming to follow in the footsteps of Chinese trailblazer Li.

Yastremska, meanwhile, was the first qualifier to reach the last four of a major since Britain's Emma Raducanu at the 2021 US Open.

It was Zheng who continued her journey to the delight of a vocal Chinese backing in a city where there is a large population with links to the Asian country.

After dropping her opening service game, Zheng instantly broke Yastremska and took the 23-year-old Ukrainian's serve once more to seal the opener.

Yastremska, who said it was her "mission" to ensure people remember about her nation's fight against Russia's ongoing invasion, needed treatment for what appeared to be an abdominal injury.

But, as promised before the match, the world number 93 continued to show the same fight she had displayed to come through qualifying to make the last four.

Losing serve for 2-1, Yastremska stopped Zheng consolidating the break by taking her fourth break-point opportunity in the next game.

However, a double fault set the tone for a poor seventh game where Zheng pounced again and the Chinese player used her dominant serve to see out victory.