Australian Open 'asking for trouble' as fans erupt over 'unreal' semi-final

Victoria Azarenka and Elena Rybakina put on a stunning show, but a crucial detail raised eyebrows among some Australian Open viewers.

Elana Rybakina, pictured here after beating Victoria Azarenka at the Australian Open.
Elana Rybakina was too good for Victoria Azarenka at the Australian Open. Image: Getty

The Australian Open has copped plenty of criticism from players this year due to a number of matches running into the early hours of the morning, and some fans feared the top four women's competitors could be set up for a similar fate on Thursday night. The first of the two women's semi-finals, won by Elena Rybakena over two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, didn't get started until just after 7:30 pm.

The second of the two matches only began once the first semi-final was concluded - and with the first set taking well over an hour to reach a tiebreak, Aryna Sabalenka's clash against surprise packet Magda Linette commenced around 10pm. The first week of the Australian Open saw a number of matches finish late, most notably Andy Murray's victory over Thanasi Kokkinakis, which was decided at roughly 4am.

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Times Sport correspondent Stuart Fraser listed the finishing times of each night session from week one on Twitter, suggesting the tournament was 'asking for trouble' by starting the first semi-final so late. The earliest finish in the first week was roughly 11:40, however rain and heat delays also contributed to scheduling issues.

Fans were thrilled by the standard of tennis in the first set, as Azarenka and Rybakina exchanged multiple service breaks on their way to a first set tiebreak. Social media erupted as two of the top women's players clashed on the big stage.

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Rybakina eventually claimed a 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 victory, ending Azarenka's inspired run at Melbourne Park. The Kazakh's victory was her third on the trot against a grand slam champion after beating World No.1 and reigning French and US Open titIeholder Iga Swiatek in the fourth round and 2017 Roland Garros winner Jelena Ostapenko in the quarters.

"I'm super happy and proud," Rybakina said. "It's an incredible atmosphere and I'm super happy to be in the finals and play one more time here."

Victoria Azarenka, pictured here waving to the crowd after her loss at the Australian Open.
Victoria Azarenka waves to the crowd after her loss at the Australian Open. (Photo by DAVID GRAY/AFP via Getty Images) (DAVID GRAY via Getty Images)

Azarenka was the last player to successfully defend the women's crown at Melbourne Park, going back-to-back in 2012 and 2013. She was bidding to join all-time greats Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Kim Clijsters as only the fourth mother to win a grand slam singles crown.

It wasn't to be, but the 33-year-old can still take great pride in her run to the semi-finals. As for Rybakina, she's promising to play with more freedom in the Australian Open final than when she won Wimbledon.

"For sure I got a lot of experience from Wimbledon and, to be honest, I just want to come on court and really enjoy the moment, enjoy the atmosphere because it's really amazing," she said. "We see how it's going to go but for sure I try my best. I fight and, yeah, hopefully I'm going to win."

With AAP

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