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Top seeds Sabalenka and Rune target more top form in Brisbane semifinals

5 January 2024, by Vivienne Christie

The No.1 seeds are living up to their billing at the Brisbane International.

Aryna Sabalenka, the top seed in the WTA 500 tournament, will take on two-time Brisbane champion Victoria Azarenka for a place in the final.

And Holger Rune, who leads the ATP field in the Queensland capital, meets Roman Safiullin in the men’s final four.

Sabalenka has progressed with minimal fuss in Brisbane, with wins over Lucia Bronzetti, Zhu Lin and Daria Kasatkina all completed without the loss of a set.

It adds to some stellar highs for Sabalneka on Australian soil. She launched her 2023 season with victories at the Adelaide International and the Australian Open.

With her blazing start in Brisbane, she’s now won 14 straight matches in Australia.

The 25-year-old will face a fellow Australian Open champion in Victoria Azarenka at Pat Rafter Arena on Saturday. Seeded eighth in Brisbane, Azarenka is also a two-time champion of this tournament – including at the inaugural tournament in 2009.

Sabalenka and Azarenka share much in common: both born in Minsk, each achieved Grand Slam breakthroughs in Melbourne and both cherish their strong connection with Australian fans.

“Honestly, this is really important and without you guys this is not really fun to play,” said Sabalenka, when asked about the crowd support at Pat Rafter Arena.

“During the Covid time, I was really sad and boring. I really missed you so much. I’m really happy to see you guys here and feel all the support and feel the atmosphere.”

The players have met four times so far at WTA level, with Sabalenka holding a 3-1 lead in their head-to-head record.

> VIEW: Brisbane International 2024 order of play

Elena Rybakina and Linda Noskova will face off in the other women’s semifinal, in a second match between the pair.

Rybakina, the No.2 seed in Brisbane, claimed victory over the 19-year-old Noskova in the only other match they’ve played.

Rune, meanwhile, is preparing for a first singles match against Roman Safiullin in the men’s semifinals – although he did experience the 26-year-old’s hard-hitting style while competing alongside Andy Murray in the men’s doubles tournament.

“Andy and I, we played him in the first round of doubles here and he was serving bombs,” said Rune of Safiullin, who has progressed against Ben Shelton, Alexei Popyrin and Matteo Arnaldi in Brisbane.

“He’s playing great this tournament. One guy’s got to stop him and I’ll try.”

No.2 seed Grigor Dimitrov faces Jordan Thompson in the other men’s semifinal.

The Australian claimed a stunning comeback victory over 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal to advance to a first hard-court semifinal.

He is aiming to edge ahead in an even 1-1 record against Dimitrov.

“He’s in incredible form,” said Thompson of the Bulgarian, who defeated Andy Murray in his opening match, before straight-sets win over Daniel Altmaier and Rinky Hijikata.

“He had a great year with his ranking as well, he really pushed back up. He’s really on the right track.”

> BUY NOW: Tickets for Brisbane International 2024