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Rybakina rolls into Brisbane semifinals

5 January 2024, by Vivienne Christie

Elena Rybakina’s debut appearance at the Brisbane International is panning out superbly.

With her quarterfinal progress over Anastasia Potapova, the world No.4 has also advanced to her first semifinal of the 2024 season.

Rybakina’s latest win at Pat Rafter Arena was admittedly an abbreviated one, with Potapova forced to withdraw after the first set with an abdominal injury.

But the second-seeded Rybakina, who was leading 6-1 when Potapova retired, has been in scintillating form this tournament. She held accomplished Belgian Elise Mertens to only one game in their previous match and was earlier a straight-sets winner over Olivia Gadecki.

In three matches, the 24-year-old from Kazakhstan has conceded only seven games in five sets.

Rybakina, who became a Grand Slam champion at Wimbledon 2022 and was runner-up to Aryna Sabalenka at Australian Open 2023, recorded 12 winners as she completed her first-set win over Potapova in 30 minutes.

“(It’s) definitely not the way I wanted to win,” said Rybakina, as she wished her opponent a speedy recovery.  “It’s been also not easy for me to start today. It’s quite humid here and I’m just happy that in the end I get a chance to play another match.”

Progress to the final four in Brisbane is especially pleasing for Rybakina after illness derailed the second half of her 2023 season.

“The last seven months, I would say was a bit unlucky with health issues, but for me the most important (thing) is to stay healthy,” she commented when asked to share her goals for 2024.

Rybakina next faces Linda Noskova, a 19-year-old Czech, who triumphed in an all-teenager battle with Mirra Andreeva.

Utilising her big power game against the crafty Andreeva, Noskova required an hour and 40 minutes to complete her 7-5 6-3 win.

> VIEW: Brisbane International 2024 women’s singles draw

Victoria Azarenka, meanwhile, continued her stellar form at Pat Rafter Arena as she advanced to her fifth semifinal from six Brisbane International campaigns.

Azarenka, the No.8 seed in Brisbane, progressed after a marathon battle with No.3 seed Jelena Ostapenko. She required two-and-a-half hours to complete the 6-3 3-6 7-5 win.

The 34-year-old, a time two-champion in Brisbane, survived a barrage of hard-hitting from the passionate Ostapenko, who achieved a Grand Slam breakthrough with her Roland Garros 2017 victory.

“With Jelena, sometimes you just have to put on (a) helmet and try to stay in there. She’s an incredible player and we’ve seen it many times,” Azarenka reflected.

“She’s a Grand Slam champion. She proved many times that she can beat anybody on any given day so she’s always very, very dangerous.”

A composed Azarenka managed Ostapenko’s hard-hitting challenge by deftly channelling her own aggression; she recorded 16 aces (compared to two from the Latvian) among 45 winners and 20 unforced errors against her opponent’s 38.

“I thought the quality of tennis was incredible and to be able to go through this match and fight for every point … I had to bring out my game, I had to push her, so I’m very proud,” Azarenka smiled.

Her hard-fought progress set a semifinal meeting with No.1 seed Sabalenka, who continued her stellar start to the season with a 6-1 6-4 victory over Daria Kasatkina.

Combined with her titles in Adelaide and at the Australian Open last summer, the world No.2 has now won 14 straight matches in Australia.

> BUY NOW: Tickets for Brisbane International 2024