Melbourne - The 2023 Australian Open has been blessed with mostly sunny skies since it began on January 16, but although the weather on day 9 was erratic, the quarterfinals continued without problem under the Rod Laver Arena roof.
Playing the role of the spearhead for Team Yonex, Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina defeated Jelena Ostapenko to advance to the semifinals.
Rybakina was the first to secure her spot in the semifinals, and she did so in style
As the rain began to fall early on in the contest, there was a brief intermission as the roof of the Rod Laver Arena closed.
The interruption could not have come at a worse time for Rybakina. She had broken serve in the first game of the first set and created another break point for a 4-1 lead. Just when Rybakina was ready to pounce, the heavens opened up and rain thundered down on the court.
Still, as they resumed the match, Rybakina retained her positive mindset and a clear head.
"I knew that she(Jelena Ostapenko) serves really well, and no matter what happens in this game, the next game I'm serving, so it was kind of an advantage," she said.
Much of her confidence rested in the serve that has proven such a strong point here, as it did last summer at Wimbleon. She holds the record for the fastest serve by a woman in Melbourne this year, 195 km/h, and her 35 aces are the most served at this tournament. Her confidence allowed her to play relaxed, fluid tennis, and when she returned to the court she immediately broke serve before sealing the first set 6-2.
The second set opened similarly to the first as Rybakina immediately secured a break in the first game. Although she allowed Ostapenko to briefly recover the break at 2-1, Rybakina remained steady and focused. While her serve receives significant attention, she has also become an extremely effective returner and she is ranked second for return winners in Melbourne. Immediately after losing her serve, Rybakina returned spectacularly to retrieve the break. Once she reestablished her lead, she never let go.
She ended the match with a flourish, striking four aces in the final game alone. The last of her 11 aces on Tuesday came on the final point as she struck a 185 km/h ace down the middle to reach the semifinals at the Australian Open for the first time.
At the beginning of the event, Rybakina noted that the tournament felt so long. But now, two wins away from the title, the Wimbledon champion’s mindset has drastically changed.
"Now it seems already close. I'm still trying to focus just on one match. For sure, I mean, it's close, that's why everybody I think now gonna try even harder, fight for every ball. It's just only good players left," she said, her face a picture of determination.