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Australian Open: The journey to the Women's final

On Saturday, Elena Rybakina takes on Aryna Sabalenka in the Women's Singles final at the Australian Open with both players bidding to win the tournament for the first time.

Rybakina is looking to follow up on her breakthrough Wimbledon triumph last year, while Sabalenka goes in search of her first ever Grand Slam title, but how did both players reach the final?

Here is a look at their respective routes through the Australian Open this month.

WhatElena Rybakina v Aryna Sabalenka
WhereMelbourne Park, Melbourne
When19:30, Saturday 28th January 2023
How to watchNine and Stan Sport and bet365's Sports Live Streaming
OddsAryna Sabalenka 1.80, Elena Rybakina 2.10

Swiatek win proves decisive for Rybakina

Kazakhstani ace Rybakina did not encounter too many problems in the first two rounds of this year's Australian Open, first sweeping aside unseeded Italian Elisabetta Cocciaretto and then thumping Kaja Juvan of Slovenia 6-2 6-1.

Juvan did not win a single breakpoint in that contest as Rybakina sailed through to the third round high on confidence, but it was then that she met some resistance.

Last year's Australian Open runner-up and tournament 13th seed Danielle Collins caused problems in the third round but Rybakina held her nerve to go on and win 6-2 5-7 6-2.

Then came the big test - Rybakina was drawn against tournament top seed Iga Swiatek, who was the standout player on the WTA Tour last year.

Going into the game after having dropped her first set of the tournament against Collins, there was cause for concern for Rybakina, but she passed the test with flying colours, sending Swiatek packing with a 6-4 6-4 win.

That proved to be a decisive victory and has surely been key in giving Rybakina the confidence to reach her second Grand Slam final aged 23.

Rybakina eases into second Grand Slam final

Rybakina has been out to prove a point since her Wimbledon win last summer.

With ranking points not counting at Wimbledon, the Kazakhstani found herself outside the top 20 at the US Open later in 2022 and admitted to not feeling like a true Grand Slam winner.

And in Melbourne she looks eager to show that she should be mixing it with the best, having followed her win over Swiatek with another straight-sets triumph over Jelena Ostapenko in the quarter-finals.

Heading into the last four, it was veteran Victoria Azarenka who stood between 22nd seed Rybakina and a place in the Australian Open final and it was never going to be an easy game.

Azarenka already had two Australian Open titles under her belt and was comfortably the more experienced of the two players, but when it came to a first set tiebreak, it was Rybakina who held her nerve to prevail before she went on to win the second set 6-3.

Sabalenka starts on the front foot

Fresh from winning her 11th career title at the Adelaide International earlier this month, Sabalenka was always going to be one to keep an eye on in the other half of the draw.

She wasted no time in the early rounds of this year's Australian Open, conceding only 14 games in her first three wins over Tereza Martincova (6-1 6-4), Shelby Rogers (6-3 6-1) and Elise Mertens (6-2 6-3).

And, like Rybakina, it was in the fourth round when Sabalenka encountered her first major test in Melbourne - 12th seed Belinda Bencic.

The Swiss star had also won one of the Adelaide International tournaments in preparation for Melbourne and threatened to derail Sabalenka's campaign.

But Bencic made errors, recording eight double faults in the match, and Sabalenka capitalised to win 7-5 6-2 and edge closer to a first ever Grand Slam final.

Semi-final triumph over Linette demonstrates great spirit from Sabalenka

In the quarter-finals, Sabalenka maintained her run of straight-set wins with a swift 6-3 6-2 victory over Croatia's Donna Vekic, who herself had battled past 17-year-old sensation Linda Fruhvirtova in the previous round.

Many had probably expected that Sabalenka would set up a semi-final tussle with Czech star Karolina Pliskova but Pole Magda Linette had other ideas.

Linette defeated Pliskova 6-3 7-5 in the quarter-finals to arrange a meeting with Sabalenka in the last four and it had the potential to be a slippery game for the in-form Belarusian.

But Sabalenka, who in the past has struggled for consistency at majors, kept her eye on the ball, winning a tiebreak in the first set and going up a gear in the second to win the match 7-6 6-2.

That result means she has now won 20 sets in a row and ten matches in a row and she looks in great shape as she targets a maiden Grand Slam title.

Sabalenka is 1.80 in the To Win Match market, while Rybakina can be backed at 2.10.

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