The Australian Open has reached the semi-final stage of the women's singles tournament, where Aryna Sabalenka and Coco Gauff renew their rivalry before unlikely title contenders Qinwen Zheng and Dayana Yastremska face off for a place in Saturday's final.
Sabalenka has worn her defending champion status with distinction, producing five straight 2-0 wins and dropping just 16 games in the process, and she's just 4/9 to avenge her US Open loss to Gauff with the American 7/4 to back up her New York win.
Zheng, the rising star of Chinese tennis, is 4/9 to see off 7/4 shot Yastremska, who has come through qualifying to reach this stage. Both have been in fine form but must now contend with the added pressure of playing in a Grand Slam semi-final for the first time
Aryna Sabalenka to win 2-0 v Coco Gauff @ 23/20
Gauff came from a set down to stun Sabalenka in the US Open final in September, but there is no doubt that the American has been short of her best in Melbourne, as she admitted after her 7-6 6-7 6-2 quarter-final win over Marta Kostyuk.
At her best, Gauff has few weaknesses, but she struggled on serve in that match, winning just 54% of points behind her first serve and totalling nine double faults, so she has work to do.
She could well find top gear for this meeting with Sabalenka, whom she has beaten in three of their four most recent matches, but she's faced a soft run to the last four, and that could work against her given the peerlessness of her opponent in the tournament.
Sabalenka has been awesome, and while it's debatable whether her run has been much more difficult than that of Gauff, there's no doubt she's been in better form than the 19-year-old.
While Gauff came out on top in New York, Sabalenka triumphed 6-4 6-0 when these two met in Indian Wells in March of last season, and it would be no surprise if the Belarusian was to reach the final with another 2-0 win.
Qinwen Zheng to win 2-1 v Dayana Yastremska @ 11/4
Neither Zheng nor Yastremska were considered likely Australian Open winners in the run-up to the tournament, but both are now dreaming of a place in the final when they line up at opposite ends of the Rod Laver Arena on Thursday.
Zheng has been a coming force for a while and finished last season in excellent form, winning gold at the Asian Games and a title in Zhengzhou before reaching the final of the Elite Trophy in Zhuhai.
She has won 15 of her last 17 matches and looked capable of causing a few upsets, but with Iga Swiatek and Elena Rybakina falling in the early rounds, she soon found herself as the one to beat in the top half.
Yastremska's run to the semi-final has been even more unexpected. The Ukrainian has been ranked as high as 21st in the world, but she is currently the WTA number 93, and she has defied underdog status in four of her five main-draw matches.
She will attempt to do so again in the semis, but Zheng has a class edge and should prevail. However, the Chinese player has been pushed to a deciding set on three occasions in this tournament, so a 2-1 Zheng win looks like the value call.
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