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Aryna Sabalenka digs her heels to outlast Madison Keys; marks maiden US Open finale!

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Aryna Sabalenka digs her heels to outlast Madison Keys; marks maiden US Open finale!
© Simon Bruty/USTA

Aryna Sabalenka survived her emotions and her opponent, Madison Keys to enter the US Open final for the first time in her career. The second seed waded past an in-form Keys to get eventually get through 0-6, 7-6(1), 7-6(10-5) after two hours and 32 minutes of play.The opening set, as the score shows, went disastrously for Sabalenka.

In her first two games, she was broken after having a game point. In fact, in the second game of the set, she was broken after having led the American 40-0. Her shots flew everywhere except land in where they had to even as Keys’ groundstrokes remained unmarred.Sabalenka’s struggles poured into the second set as well and she promptly lost her serve in the third game of the set.

However, in the changeover between the first and second sets, Keys’ level, too, had dropped. In the fourth game of the set while trying to consolidate the break for a 3-1 lead, she surrendered her serve for the first time during the proceedings.

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Not that Sabalenka was able to take immediate advantage of the let up. She conceded yet another break with mistimed shots and at the second time of asking, Keys didn’t make the same mistake. She consolidated the break and maintained this gap between her opponent and herself, right until the 10th game.

In that game, serving for the match, Keys leaked errors off her serve like she’d never done in the match before. Two unforced errors, a forced error and a double fault in that game accounted for Sabalenka securing the break to love and with that, changing the course of the match.

The 25-year-old comeback in that set ended with her dominating the tie-break, 7-1 and push the match into the decider.Both players started the third set with jangling nerves. There was a brief exchange of breaks in the sixth and seventh games before the set remained on serve enforcing the 10-point tie-break.

And, as had happened in the second set tie-break, Sabalenka unleashed her shot-making freely and zoned into a 9-3 lead. She did concede two further points before an unforced error from Keys allowed her to close the door firmly on any further comebacks and take her place in the title clash.In the end, the match was a close call with only a little dividing the two players.

Sabalenka finished with 35 winners and 39 unforced errors to the 17th seed’s 32 winners and 35 unforced errors.Saturday’s US Open final will be the second time Aryna Sabalenka will be playing a Major final. Both of these two finals have come in 2023.

At the start of the year, she’d won the Australian Open in what was her maiden Slam finale. Madison Keys was trying to make it to the US Open finale for the second time in her career, almost seven years after she’d first done so, in 2017.

Sabalenka will play Keys’ compatriot, Coco Gauff for a chance to lift the title.

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