Revenge is a tricky term in professional tennis. It’s floated around quite a bit to add layers of background to battles between players, yet seldom by the protagonists themselves. Most refrain from using it and consider it too strong a word.
Aryna Sabalenka is different. Aggressive and unabashed much like her game, the Belarusian said she “really wanted that revenge” over Coco Gauff, the teen that stopped her from winning her second Grand Slam title in the 2023 US Open final.
Revenge sought, revenge delivered. By the defending champion in a territory not many have been able to hold on to of late (unless, of course, you’re Novak Djokovic).
Sabalenka blasted past the reigning US Open champion battling a few edgy moments in a 7-6(2), 6-4 semi-final victory inside a roof-enclosed Rod Laver Arena on Thursday. Gauff rated her quarter-final outing as C and although Sabalenka did not quite bring out her own A game in the semis, she did enough to emerge better from an inconsistent contest that put Sabalenka in her second straight final at Melbourne Park, the stage of her first Grand Slam title.
No woman since Serena Williams in 2016 and 2017 has managed to reach back-to-back finals at the Australian Open. World No. 15 Qinwen Zheng, who beat Ukranian Dayana Yastremska 6-4, 6-4 in the other semi-final to become the first Chinese player since her idol and 2014 Australian Open champion Li Na to enter a Slam final, stands between Sabalenka and another rare feat.
No woman in more than a decade has defended her Australian Open crown (Victoria Azarenka was the last to do so in 2013). Sabalenka, yet to drop a set in this tournament, has been the holding rock in a whirlwind women’s section featuring favourites getting knocked out early, a wide-open half of the draw and a couple of first-timers and a teen in the semi-finals.