Aryna Sabalenka has expressed her intention to advance to the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, beating Belinda Bencic.
The Belarusian started the season by winning a title in Adelaide and has yet to drop a set in 2023 as he tries to win his first grand slam title.
Sabalenka has been knocking on the door for several years now, reaching back-to-back semifinals at the US Open in 2021 and the last four at Wimbledon, but has yet to make it to the final.
He started the season last year struggling to find his serve on the pitch, but it all seems to come together and Sabalenka was fantastic, hitting the 12th seeded Bencic, another in-form player, with a 7-5 6-2 win with 32 wins. 18 non-essential errors.
Consulting a biomechanic has proven to be the key to resolving service issues, and Sabalenka now sees it as a blessing in disguise.
“I’m so glad this thing on my service happened to me,” she said.
“I wouldn’t have been really open to that before. I’d say, ‘You know, my service is fine, I don’t want to change anything. Actually it wasn’t quite accurate even when my service was running.
“At that moment, I was open to anything. I was like, ‘Please, someone help me fix this damn service. Sorry for cursing, but that’s how it happened.”
“I want to believe that the way I’m working right now, the way I’m on the field right now, this is a fresh start and this is the next step. So I really want to believe that it’s going to really help me.”
Conditions at Melbourne Park this year are clearly in favor of strong players and Sabalenka will be a big favorite to make it to the bottom semi-finals, especially after fourth-seeded Caroline Garcia left with another defeat.
Following the fifth seeded Sabalenka, she will face the unseeded Croatian Donna Vekic, who finished 17-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova’s streak with a 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 win.
Vekic was also a former young genius, where he made his debut ten years ago but this is only his second grand slam quarterfinal.
Former world number one Karolina Pliskova beat Zhang Shuai 6-0, 6-4, undetected in the draw, making it to the last eight.
The Czech missed his first grand slam since the US Open in 2012 after being injured in the hand there last year.
Pliskova said: “Of course it’s great to be here because I’m really sorry that I missed this particular episode of the season last year.
“It just took a while because I started with pain pretty much the same way. I felt like I had found my game lately. Now I keep playing the way I play in the US. I’m happy again to be in the quarterfinals for the second time in a row.”
Garcia finished last season with the biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals and came to Melbourne as one of the favourites, but suffered a shock defeat to the 45th-placed Linette.
Unexpectedly beating his fellow countrymen Iga Swiatek and Hubert Hurkacz, Pole took a 7-6 (3) 6-4 win to make his first career grand slam quarterfinals.