Teen Noskova to meet Sabalenka in first final

7 January 2023, by Dan Imhoff

Czech teenager Linda Noskova has closed to within a win of her first career title after defeating top seed Ons Jabeur in Saturday’s semifinals.

The 18-year-old qualifier claimed her sixth straight match at The Drive with a 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 upset of the world No.2, who required treatment on her lower back.

It continued a remarkable run for the world No.102 after she saved match point in her opening qualifying match against Anna Kalinskaya.

She saved another match point to deny two-time former Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka in a three-hour quarter-finals battle.

This was her second top-10 triumph of the week after toppling world No.8 Daria Kasatkina in the opening round.

“Definitely a tough match. I don’t think either of us played 100 per cent, so I’m glad I had the last point to win,” Noskova said. “I’m just really glad to play like this.”

The Czech became the youngest player to make at WTA 500 final since former Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki at New Haven in 2008.

Through six matches the fast-rising name has looked unflappable under the pump and composed even in the face of each mounting victory.

“I don’t work on it at all. It’s just part of me,” Noskova said. “I’m just really happy to be like that. Not really emotional even after wins or losses. That’s great.

“But sometimes people are like, ‘Does it mean anything to you?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, it does, but I’m just not showing’.”

The most shock in her expression came when told she would soar to just outside the world’s top 40 should she win Sunday’s final.

“Top 50? Damn,” she grinned. “No, there are obviously bigger goals each day: just improving my game and the results are going to come on [their] own hopefully.”

Second seed powers into title decider

Sabalenka earlier marched into her first final on Australian soil without conceding a set, denying Irina-Camelia Begu at the Adelaide International on Saturday.

After a slow start to her campaign, the second seed has quickly rediscovered the shot-making brilliance which carried her past the world’s top three women to a runner-up finish at last year’s WTA Finals.

As temperatures climbed above 30 degrees Celsius, the 24-year-old was pleased to wrap up the job in 78 minutes, restricting Begu to a 6-3, 6-2 scoreline.

“Yeah I’m happy with the level I played today, especially with [Begu’s] different game,” Sabalenka said. “She’s playing a little bit, like, a different style, so I’m super happy that I’m able to win this match.”

Begu had come off impressive wins over seeds Jelena Ostapenko and Veronika Kudermetova but was completely outmatched from the back of the court.

Sabalenka’s win avenged a defeat to the Romanian in Miami last year and continued the strong form she brought to the season-ending WTA Finals, in which she fell to Caroline Garcia in the title match, having beaten No.1 Iga Swiatek, No.2 Ons Jabeur and No.3 Jessica Pegula.

“Even in the final, it was just a little bit. Of course, it’s giving little bit of confidence, but I don’t like to speak about confidence because it’s not about confidence,” Sabalenka said.

“You can really feel this confidence but then lose in the first round because you feel super confident.

“I just feel that I have to keep working the way I’m working right now. I hope that things will work better for me.”

She will meet either top seed Jabeur or 18-year-old Czech Linda Noskova for the chance to collect her first title since beating Ash Barty in the Madrid final in May 2021.

“I mean either way it’s going to be a tough match,” Sabalenka. “Both of them are playing really great tennis this week. I saw a couple of matches of both.”

Muhammad/Townsend claim doubles title

American duo Asia Muhammad and Taylor Townsend earlier opened Saturday’s session beating top seeds Storm Hunter and Katerina Siniakova for the women’s doubles title.

The sixth seeds surprised the Australian-Czech duo 6-2, 7-6(2) in 87 minutes, backing up their semifinal defeat of second seed Lyudmyla Kichenok and Jelena Ostapenko.

Muhammad had the chance to serve out the match at 5-4 in the second set only to be broken before picking off the winning forehand volley in the tiebreak.

“It’s incredibly special and rare that we get a chance to play in the same place two weeks, so you’re able to get a chance to really settle in and get a feel after coming off the off-season,” Townsend said.

“Storm, Katerina great week this week. Katerina and I will be back out on court to play [Adelaide 2 singles] qualies today, so our day isn’t over.

“Asia, I’m so glad to be sharing the court with you again. It’s been a long time but we were able to redeem ourselves.”