Aryna Sabalenka Impressive in Dismissing Victoria Azarenka to Reach Montreal Semifinals

Aryna Sabalenka Serena Williams Australian Open
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In a week where Aryna Sabalenka became WTA’s ace leader, she also became the first woman to advance into the semifinals of the National Bank Open.

Under the baking sun in Montreal, Sabalenka defeated compatriot Victoria Azarenka 6-2 6-4. The match lasted an hour and 19 minutes before Sabalenka booked her spot in her fifth semifinal of the season. With this victory, she also improves to 38-12 for the season. She is also on course to win her third title of 2021 (Abu Dhabi and Madrid).

Aryna Sabalenka Will Become World No. 2 If she Reaches Sunday’s Final

Sabalenka is projected to rise to World #2 if she can reach Sunday’s final, pulling clear of Naomi Osaka. She will also nudge ahead of Barbora Krejcikova in the Race to Shenzhen–which counts points earned in the current season. There is a potential Wimbledon rematch against Karolina Pliskova looming large in the last four in Canada should the Czech beat Sara Sorribes Tormo.

The 23-year-old was instilled as the top seed this week following withdrawals by her higher-ranked peers Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka. Sabalenka had passed the Australian in the aces count for the 2021 season prior to her quarterfinal match. She amassed 265 aces, ten more than Barty. And her serve proved destructive once again in wearing down Azarenka’s counter-punching skills. She struck seven more aces, taking her tally to 272.

The 32-year-old Azarenka had seen off Maria Sakkari in a thrilling three-set match on Thursday. It was just her second Top 20 win of the season. But even with momentum swelling her way at the start of the second set on Friday, she couldn’t keep up with the pace and precision coming off Sabalenka’s racket.

The younger Belarusian fired an impressive 33 winners to Azarenka’s eight. She also gave the two-time Major winner very little breathing space on her returns. Sabalenka manufactured as many as 11 breakpoints-converting five. Sabalenka’s risk-tolerant approach also yielded a fair share of 27 unforced errors.

Serving to stay in the match at 5-4, Azarenka came under massive scoreboard pressure. At 30-all in that ninth game, Sabalenka played an improvised drop shot that forced the world #15 to find the tramlines. The top seed finished off the match planting a backhand crosscourt winner in the subsequent point.

Main Photo from Getty.