The 2023 Australian Open women’s singles title will not be won by an American.
Jessica Pegula, the No. 3 seed and the highest-ranking American left in either the women’s or men’s singles, was defeated on Tuesday by No. 24 Victoria Azarenka. It was a 97-minute victory in straight sets, with Azarenka prevailing 6-4, 6-1.
It was clear from the start that Pegula couldn’t handle a vintage showing from Azarenka. In just 12 minutes, she had jumped out to a 3-0 lead over Pegula, who battled for 10 minutes in the next game just to get her first win. That seemed to energize Pegula, who went on to fend off two set points to make it 5-4 in the first set. Unfortunately, that was the only big burst of energy we’d see from Pegula. Azarenka took the first set, and then won six of the next seven games to earn her place in the semifinals.
It’s not like Azarenka is a young upstart who has never shown this level of play. She’s a 30-year-old former world No. 1 who has seen the most success of her career at the Australian Open. She won the tournament in 2012 and again in 2013, and has spent the last several years trying to get back to this kind of punishing tennis. While her domination of Pegula was unexpected, it’s certainly not surprising. And now, for the first time in 10 years, she’s back in the final four.
Sebastian Korda’s dream run ends in quarterfinals
It was an exceptional run for No. 29 Sebastian Korda, but the American’s Aussie Open dreams ended on Tuesday when he had to retire from his quarterfinal match against Karen Khachanov, the No. 18 seed.
Korda, just 22, fought hard in the first set, only to lose it 7-5 on a tiebreaker. That’s as tight as it would get, because in the second set he felt something in his wrist after mishitting the ball on a forehand. The trainers came out and Korda tried to play through it with some tape on his wrist, but it was clear he wasn’t playing as well as he had been in the first set.
After Khachanov went up 3-0 in the third set, Korda was in too much pain to go on. After the match, Korda said that he could barely hold the racket when he was hitting some of his forehands, making volleying pretty much impossible.
Runs like Korda’s are one of the most exciting features of any Grand Slam — seeing a young player get the spirit in them and go on a two-week frenzy as they play the best tennis of their lives. For Korda, this week and a half in Melbourne was hopefully just an amuse-bouche, a tiny bite at the start of the meal to get you ready for what’s coming. Korda has both great talent and an impressive pedigree — his father Petr won the Australian Open in 1998 — so we absolutely haven’t seen the last of him in these later Grand Slam rounds.
Elated Tsitsipas flies into semifinals
There was no one happier on Tuesday than Stefanos Tsitsipas. The 24-year-old Greek glided into the semifinals in Melbourne with a relatively drama-free 6-3, 7-6(2), 6-4 win over unseeded Czech player Jiri Lehecka.
“Relatively” is the key word, because he almost blew it all just minutes before securing the win.
Tsitsipas, up two sets and just two games away from winning the match, had just watched Lehecka smash an ace right by him. Almost immediately the ball rebounded toward him, and he frustratedly hit it. But at that moment, a ball boy was trying to follow the ball so he could grab it. The ball It barely missed hitting the ball boy, which would have gotten Tsitsipas disqualified from the tournament.
That’s an “almost” for the ages. Clear of that close call, Tsitsipas closed his win, and then invited Australian actress Margot Robbie to watch him play in the semifinals. Shoot your shot, Stef!
Rybakina upends Ostapenko to land in semis
Elena Rybakina, the No. 22 seed, is headed to her first Australian Open semifinal. She beat No. 17 Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4 in just 79 minutes. Ostapenko had a number of chances to get a firm grip on the match, but her big downfall was break points. Both she and Rybakina faced eight break points, but Ostapenko could only convert one while Rybakina managed to convert four. In a match that ends with a close 6-4 final set, those missed chances matter a lot.
Anyone surprised by Rybakina’s performance at the Australian Open hasn’t been watching her lately. She won her first Grand Slam last year when she triumphed at Wimbledon, but since no ranking points were given out, Rybakina’s world ranking (and subsequent tournament seedings) remained largely unaffected. But we know she can win a Grand Slam, and now she’s a mere two matches from doing that for the second time in seven months.
What to watch on Day 10
The final two semifinal matchups will be decided on Wednesday. With two Americans facing off against each other (Ben Shelton and Tommy Paul), we know at least one will make to the semis.
No. 30 Karolina Pliskova vs. Magda Linette
No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka vs. Donna Vekic
Ben Shelton vs. Tommy Paul
No. 4 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 5 Andrey Rublev