Rybakina, Khachanov reach Australian Open semifinals

Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina reached the Australian Open semifinals on Tuesday as she overpowered Jelena Ostapenko to claim a 6-2, 6-4 victory.

In the men’s competition, Karen Khachanov reached his second consecutive Grand Slam semi-final when Sebastian Korda retired hurt at the Australian Open, ending the young American’s dream of emulating his father Petr’s 1998 title run. However, Khachanov had already won two sets and was leading the third 3-0 at that time.

Rybakina of Kazakhstan wrapped up victory in one hour and 19 minutes following a lengthy rain delay on Rod Laver Arena, firing 11 aces and 24 winners as she claimed a dominant 6-2 6-4 victory over Latvia’s Ostapenko.

The 22nd seed will now face either American world number three Jessica Pegula or two-time champion Victoria Azarenka for a place in the final.

“I’m super happy to be in the semi-finals for the first time,” said Rybakina, the youngest player left in the women’s draw.

“Of course I was nervous, especially in the last game. I’m super happy I managed the emotions and I played really well today.”

Despite earning the most prestigious title of her career with her surprise success at Wimbledon, Rybakina dropped to 25th in the world – where she remains – because ranking points were not awarded at the grass court major.

She subsequently spoke about not feeling like a Grand Slam champion and began her Melbourne campaign on court 13 rather than a show-court.

Restored to the main stage at Melbourne Park, she followed up her stunning win over top seed Iga Swiatek with another devastating display against 2017 French Open winner Ostapenko.

“I think I got all the experience at Wimbledon and it’s helping me now this time here in Australia. I know what to expect,” Rybakina said. “[I’m] feeling good on the court and really enjoying every match I’m playing here.”

In a meeting between two of the three major champions still standing among the last eight, Rybakina made a confident start as she broke 17th seed Ostapenko’s serve in the opening game.

She set up another opportunity in game five with her powerful shot-making before play was suspended by rain, returning after a wait of around half an hour to clinch a double break lead and ultimately serve out the set under the roof.

Ostapenko threatened a fightback with a break at the start of set two but Rybakina swiftly extinguished those hopes, recording successive breaks in reply to bring her second major semi-final into focus.

She went on to seal the match in fitting fashion, sending down a final ace to extend her tournament-leading tally to 35.

On the other hand, Korda needed treatment on a wrist injury in the second set of the quarter-final before calling it quits when trailing 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, 3-0 to the Russian 18th seed on Rod Laver Arena.

Khachanov’s reward is a clash with either Greek third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas or unseeded Czech Jiri Lehecka, who play later, for a spot in Sunday’s final.

Victory equals the 26-year-old’s best performance at a major after his semi-final run during last September’s US Open, where he lost to Norway’s Casper Ruud.

The Olympic silver medallist, who has won four Tour-level titles, came into the match with far greater experience at this stage of a Grand Slam than Korda, having reached the last eight at all four majors. In contrast, the 22-year-old Korda was in his first quarter-final.

Khachanov also had a far easier ride in the fourth round, routing Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka in straight sets while Korda slogged through a five-set thriller against Hubert Hurkacz.

“I think until a certain point it was very competitive, a very good battle,” said Khachanov. “He beat my friend Daniil (Medvedev) in three sets and won in five sets against Hurkacz so you know he is playing great. So applause to him.”

“I’m feeling good to be honest and really happy about the way I’m competing,” he added. “I’m looking forward to the semi-finals here in Australia for the first time.”

Khachanov, who reached a career-high ranking of eight in 2019, opened with a serve to love, then reeled off an easy break to go 2-0 clear with Korda’s early nerves apparent.

The American finally got off the mark to hold for 3-1 when Khachanov flayed a cross-court forehand wide.

But with the Russian blasting down aces and winning more than 90 percent on his first serve, the chances to break back were few and far between.

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