US Open: Sabalenka’s comeback sets up final against Gauff

A three-set defeat after serving an opening-set bagel can be a sour outcome to digest, as Madison Keys would’ve felt after losing her US Open semi-final to Aryna Sabalenka with an astonishing 6-0, 6-7(1), 6-7(5-10) scoreline.
Sabalenka would know, having been through the rare reversal herself in February at a WTA event in Dubai. Turning up for her first tournament since becoming a Grand Slam champion at the Australian Open, Sabalenka imploded in a 6-0, 6-7(2), 1-6 quarter-final loss to Barbora Krejcikova.
The big-hitting Belarusian has been prone to such mid-match breakdowns, and showed signs of that on Thursday as Keys unlocked her beast mode for the first six games. Getting broken again in the third game of the second set, Sabalenka went chattering away to her box, slammed her racquet against the towel stand and flung it towards her team.
The meltdown done; it was immediately dusted. In the next game and on her third break point where Keys struck a backhand wide, Sabalenka stared at her box again, this time with an assured first bump.
That would be the start of the top-drawer turnaround from the world No. 1-in-waiting that put Sabalenka one step away from her career and season’s second Slam triumph, although home favourite Coco Gauff would like one of her own on Saturday.
The Australian Open champion has been a familiar face in the semi-finals of all majors this year— the first woman to do so in a single season since Serena Williams in 2016. This was, however, only her second win from seven outings in the last-four stage of Slams. All the other five defeats came in three-setters, with Sabalenka blowing an opening-set lead in three of them.

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