Brisbane: Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina earn brutal wins after ruthless performance



by DZEVAD MESIC

Brisbane: Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina earn brutal wins after ruthless performance
© Getty Images Sport - Chris Hyde

Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina have been safely through to the Brisbane International quarterfinal following extremely dominant wins on Thursday.

Sabalenka, the top-seeded player in Brisbane, crushed world No. 33 Zhu Lin 6-1 6-0. After losing a total of three games in her opening win over Lucia Bronzetti, Sabalenka delivered an even more dominant performance on Thursday. 

Following her win over Zhu, 2023 Australian Open champion Sabalenka improved her winning streak in Australia to 13 matches. Also, 25-year-old Sabalenka now owns a 4-0 head-to-head against Zhu.

Meanwhile, second-seeded Rybakina also delivered a brutal performance on Thursday, destroying No. 13 seed Elise Mertens 6-1 6-0. Going into the match, Rybakina was the favorite to win. However, no one really expected Rybakina to beat former world No. 12 Mertens by just one game lost. Rybakina, 23, now has four wins and one loss against Mertens.

Sabalenka won 12 games in a row against Zhu

World No. 2 Sabalenka was a bit sloppy on her service in the first game of the match as the Belarusian missed out on a game point before Zhu converted her third break point to start the match with a break. After breaking Sabalenka, Zhu had 30-0 in her service games but then lost the next four points as Sabalenka managed to break back. Sabalenka continued her run after getting the break back as she also broke Zhu in the fourth and sixth games en route to winning six games in a row and taking the opener.

After winning the last six games of the first set, Sabalenka also started the second set with back-to-back breaks and a 3-0 lead. In the fourth game of Sabalenka's serve, Zhu had two break points - but the Chinese failed to convert as the Belarusian also won her 10th consecutive game to open a 4-0 second-set lead. Sabalenka then earned her fifth break of the match in the fifth game, before serving out for the match in the following game.

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka© Getty Images Sport - Chris Hyde
 

Rybakina sees off Mertens with just one game lost

Right from the start, world No. 4 Rybakina started pressing Mertens. In Mertens' first service game, Rybakina missed out on four break points before creating her fifth break point and realizing it for an early 2-0 lead. With Rybakina up 3-0 early on, Mertens managed to get on the board after serving out the fourth game. But it didn't change much as Rybakina broke Mertens again for a 5-1 lead before converting her first set point in the following game to routinely win the opener. 

After easily sealing the opener, Rybakina also got off to a very fast start to the second set, earning back-to-back breaks to take a 3-0 lead. In the fourth game, Rybakina faced a break point for the first time in the match - but saved it to go 4-0 up. From that moment, there was no coming back from Mertens as Rybakina broke the Belgian again in the fifth game before realizing her first match point on her serve in the following game. 

Elena Rybakina
Elena Rybakina© Getty Images Sport - Chris Hyde
 

Sabalenka plays next against Daria Kasatkina

In the Brisbane quarterfinal, Sabalenka will be taking on No. 5 seed Kasatkina, who defeated 2023 Australian Open semifinalist Magda Linette 6-4 6-2 on Thursday. 

Kasatkina, ranked at No. 18 in the world, made a commanding start to the match against Linette, claiming back-to-back breaks in the first and third games for an early 3-0 lead. In the fourth game, Linette managed to create her first break point opportunities and convert her second break point to get on the board and cut the deficit to 1-3. With Kasatkina serving for the set in the ninth game, Linette saved three set points to also get the second break back. However, Kasatkina was able to keep her focus and broke Linette again in the 10th game - the game in which the Pole was serving to stay in the first set.

Up by a set, Kasatkina also earned an early second-set break to open a 4-1 lead. In the eighth game - the game in which Linette was serving to stay in the match - Kasatkina realized her sixth match point to complete her two-set win and set up a meeting against Sabalenka.

When Sabalenka and Kasatkina meet in Brisbane, it is going to be their eighth meeting. Going into the match, Sabalenka leads their head-to-head 5-3. Last year, Sabalenka beat Kasatkina twice.

Aryna Sabalenka and Daria Kasatkina
Aryna Sabalenka and Daria Kasatkina© Getty Images Sport - Al Bello
 

Rybakina to battle Anastasia Potapova for a Brisbane semifinal spot

On Friday, Rybakina will be taking on No. 11 seed Potapova, who defeated sixth-seeded Veronika Kudermetova 7-5 6-7 (7) 6-4. 

The match started with Potapova getting broken in the very first game of the match. Down 4-5, Potapova broke back Kudermetova in the 10th game after saving two set points. Then, Potapova broke Kudermetova again in the 12th game - the game in which Kudermetova was serving to stay in the opener.

In the second set, Potapova had a 4-1 lead before Kudermetova responded with back-to-back breaks to overturn the deficit and go 5-4 up. Just when it seemed the set was over, Kudermetova failed to serve out for the set in the 10th game and the set eventually went into a tie-break. In the second-set tie-break, Kudermetova missed out on her first three set points but realized her fourth set point to send the match into a decider.

In the third set, there were no breaks until the ninth, in which Potapova broke Kudermetova for a 5-4 lead. After earning the first break of the third set, Potapova routinely served out for the match as she converted her first match point in the 10th game. 

Now, Potapova is set to meet Rybakina for the second time. When Potapova and Rybakina met for the first time at an ITF event in 2018, Potapova claimed a straight-set win. But a lot has changed since then as Rybakina is now a much improved player and one of the best players in the game. With that being said, Rybakina is certainly the favorite to beat Potapova but Potapova has already beaten a seeded player she has also been playing well in Brisbane this week.

Aryna Sabalenka Elena Rybakina