Aussie Open: Coco Gauff, Aryna Sabalenka on collision course?

League: Tennis

Posted on: 22 Jan, 2024 at 07:19 PM

Credit: Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports

Aryna Sabalenka has dropped a total of 11 games in blitzing her way into the quarterfinals at the 2024 Australian Open. Coco Gauff is just behind her, losing a combined 16 through four straight-sets victories to date.

With top-ranked Iga Swiatek out of the picture, No. 2 Sabalenka and No. 4 Gauff are the heavy favorites to claim the women's title in Mebourne. They're also on a potential collision course in the semifinals.

Gauff will kick off the women's quarterfinals against unseeded Marta Kostyuk at 9 p.m. ET on Monday. Kostyuk, 21, is in her first career Grand Slam quarterfinal, surviving three consecutive three-set matches and upsetting 25th-seeded Elise Mertens along the way.

The Ukrainian faces an uphill battle to keep her run going, as Kostyuk is the biggest underdog among the women's four quarterfinal matches. She is +550 at BetMGM, compared to Gauff at -800. Gauff, 19, won her first Grand Slam title at last year's U.S. Open, where she beat Sabalenka in three sets.

"First Aussie quarterfinal; super happy to be in this position and be here," Gauff said after beating Poland's Magdalena Frech on Sunday. "It's cool to get over that hump. Hopefully, I can keep going for more."

Sabalenka is the defending champion in Melbourne and has been in dominating form in her quest for a repeat. The 25-year-old Belarusan does face a tough quarters opponent in No. 9 seed Barbora Krejcikova, who has gone the distance in three of her first four matches this tournament despite yet having to face another seeded player.

Sabalenka is a -700 favorite to dispatch of Krejcikova for the sixth time in seven career meetings, and she is the +150 favorite at the book to win the women's title. Her odds are slightly shorter than Gauff's at +170.

The 11 games lost through four matches is the fewest in the women's draw since Maria Sharapova lost five and Serena Williams lost eight en route to the Aussie Open quarters in 2013.

"I would say that I thought I will feel differently after winning Grand Slam," Sabalenka said after dominating Amanda Anisimova 6-3, 6-2. "It's no different. You still feel the same. You still have to bring your best tennis. You still have to fight for it.

"It's exactly the same feelings like I had one year ago."

On the other half of the draw, China's Qinwen Zheng is the lone remaining seeded player at No. 12. Like Krejcikova, Zheng has not had to face another seeded player yet, and won't have to unless she reaches her first career Grand Slam final.

"I remember the first time (I) arrive on the tour, and everybody I play has better ranking than me," she said. "Especially when I face the Slam champions, you are going to enter the court and feel those pressure. Sometimes I get overexcited.

"But right now, got these two years' experience. ... I start to face the people who are lower than me. I come on the court. I feel I have those confidence."

The 21-year-old Zheng is vying first her first semifinal appearance in a Slam. She's a -210 favorite to do so ahead of her quarterfinal matchup against unseeded Anna Kalinskaya. After upsetting American Sloane Stephens in the Round of 32, Kalinskaya knocked off No. 26 Jasmine Paolini in straight sets.

The fourth quarterfinal match pits two unseeded players: Linda Noskova from the Czech Republic against Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska.

Yastremska is coming off a straight-sets upset over 18th-seeded Victoria Azarenka. She has also knocked off No. 7 seed Marketa Vondrousova and No. 27 Emma Navarro in Melbourne. Meanwhile, Noskova shocked Swiatek in the Round of 32 and was leading 19th-seeded Elina Svitolina 3-0 in the opening set before the Ukrainian retired from the match.

Noskova is the -210 favorite against Yastremska (+165).

Whoever emerges from that half of the draw is expected to face Sabalenka or Gauff in the finals. Zheng has the third shortest odds to win the women's title at +550, followed by Noskova at +800 and Kalinskaya and Yastremska each at +1600.

The biggest longshots are Krejcikova (+2200) and Kostyuk (+4000).

--Field Level Media