Sabalenka has Gauff in sights as Grand Slam final beckons

Melbourne: Aryna Sabalenka is on a mission to avenge her 2023 US Open loss to Coco Gauff in the last four of the Australian Open on Thursday, with a Grand Slam final rookie awaiting the winner.

The Belarusian second seed was a set up against the American 19-year-old in the final at Flushing Meadows.

But it was Gauff who came out on top to prevent Sabalenka winning a second Grand Slam crown after her breakthrough at the Australian Open last year.

They resume their rivalry in the first women's semi-final on Rod Laver Arena in the evening, followed on court by Ukrainian qualifier Dayana Yastremska and Chinese 12th seed Zheng Qinwen.

While Sabalenka and Gauff have tasted Grand Slam success, neither Yastremska nor Zheng have reached a major final before.

The men's semi-finals are on Friday.

World number two Sabalenka has been untouchable in Melbourne so far, dropping just 16 games across her five matches and will be favourite against Gauff.

"After the US Open, I really wanted that revenge, and, I mean, that's a great match," she said of their upcoming showdown.

"It's always great battles against Coco, with really great fights. I'm happy to play her."

Gauff had also been in commanding form until she met Marta Kostyuk in the quarter-finals.

She was forced through three tough sets, winning despite an error-strewn performance that will not pass muster against Sabalenka.

"Aryna, always a tough match with her. I think she's playing well this tournament," said Gauff, who believes her experience from the US Open could prove invaluable.

"It does give me confidence knowing that at least in that stage of a Grand Slam that my nerves are usually settled."

Yastremska is the first women's qualifier to reach the last four in Melbourne since Australia's Christine Matison in 1978 and is unfazed by getting so far.

"I'm doing just my thing and focusing on myself, the way I play. I think that's working," she said ahead of her meeting with Zheng, whose exploits will ensure she moves into the world's top 10 when the new rankings come out next week.

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