Despite falling behind an early break, Aryna Sabalenka rallied to defeat Belinda Bencic 7-5, 6-2 and go to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open for the first time in her career on Monday.
To reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the fourth time, the 24-year-old Belarusian will have to get past either Donna Vekic of Croatia or Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic in the last eight.
The race for the Daphne Akhurst Trophy is wide open this year after hot favourite Iga Swiatek was eliminated in the fourth round on Sunday.
If Sabalenka can overcome the demons that arise when her power game isn’t performing as well as she’d like, she has as strong a chance as anybody of winning her first Grand Slam singles title.
The Belarusian was a mess in the first seven games, losing a break to the Swiss Bencic and shook her head as she made 12 errors.
As Sabalenka settled in and began to unleash howitzer serves and powerful forehands, Bencic was put under intense duress and only six more would be won by either player for the remainder of the match.
She battled back to tie the score at 4-4, held serve when Bencic served for the set, and then broke for a 1-0 lead when her Swiss opponent double-faulted on set point.
Sabalenka jumped off to a quick 3-1 lead in the second set, and despite Bencic taking a 30-0 lead in game seven, she came back with virtually unplayable power to win the game and the set with a powerful forehand for her 32nd winner.
She is a terrific player, and she performed so well, so I’m really thrilled for her that we won today.