Elena Rybakina will seek her second Grand Slam triumph this weekend
Elena Rybakina will attempt to add a second Grand Slam title to her trophy cabinet on Saturday when she plays Aryna Sabalenka in Saturday's Australian Open final. The Moscow-born ace blitzed past Victoria Azarenka in straight sets on Thursday.
Rybakina, 23, who has represented Kazakhstan on the international stage for several years, has been in impressive form Down Under and has dropped just a single set en route to the final, in part due to an impressive power game which has seen her score 44 aces - the most of any player in the tournament.
Belarus' Azarenka, though, did muster a measure of resistance in the opening set, forcing Rybakina to stare down the barrel of a 0-40 deficit with the set tied at 5-5 before she rallied to win a tiebreaker.
There were no such fears in the second set as she powered to a 6-3 win to take the match - and another opportunity to create history - in straight sets.
"I was focusing on myself because conditions were completely different," said Rybakina of the match, which took place on a balmy Melbourne evening.
"I couldn't get free points on my serve that easy like during the day when I played the matches. I knew that I need just to adjust. I was doing correct things. It was just a matter to be more focused on these important moments."
Rarely one to display too many emotions on the court, Rybakina admitted afterwards that she is relishing the opportunity to compete in a Grand Slam final with members of her family looking on in the Rod Laver Arena. Her parents were absent from her Wimbledon win last summer.
"It's the first time they're all together here," she said. "I'm super happy that we can spend evenings together and they can watch me live."
Despite her dominance so far in the tournament, Rybakina will be a significant underdog when she takes on the fifth-ranked Sabalenka in the final after the Belarusian beat Magda Linette in straight sets in the other semifinal.
And Sabalenka says she is fully aware of the scale of the task awaiting her in what is her maiden appearance in a Grand Slam final.
"She's an amazing player," Sabalenka said of her upcoming opponent.
"She's playing great tennis, super aggressive and she already got one Grand Slam so she has kind of had this experience playing the final. It's going to be great. I'm really looking forward to this final."