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HomesportCoco Gauff loses in the semi-finals of the Australian Open as Aryna...

Coco Gauff loses in the semi-finals of the Australian Open as Aryna Sabalenka makes her way to the final


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Coco Gauff's Australian Open run came to an end in the semifinals on Thursday, as the 19-year-old US Open champion faced an opponent who had proven too much for everyone at Melbourne Park in the past two years.

Aryna Sabalenka, the hard-hitting defending champion from Belarus who collapsed in front of Gauff and 24,000 in the US Open final last September, has had plenty of shaky moments on Rod Laver Arena. But Sabalenka was at her best in the moments that mattered most, defeating Gauff in the first set tiebreak, then pulling away again in the second set to win 7-6 (2), 6-4 and reach her third Grand Slam final. .

Gauff entered the match coming off her worst performance in a long time, an error-strewn win in what she called her “C Game” in the quarterfinals against Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine. To this end, she changes her amber skirt, top, and technicolor shoes to a more subdued navy. A different look, and you hope there's a different kind of performance.

It was like that and it wasn't like that, it was better, but it wasn't good enough, especially her serve. Gauff double-faulted eight times, a throwback to her prime years on the tour. Her second serve was often soft and short, allowing Sabalenka to jump up the court and hit winners past her opponent.

However, on a night when both players, especially Gauff, were far from their best, the American star had her chances. In the first set, she saved a set point and came back from a 5-2 deficit to serve for the set and was two points away from winning it.

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After nearly five games of net forehands and long backhands, Sabalenka came alive, her shots sweeping down the back of the court and sending Gauff to her knees to retrieve them.

It seemed that Sabalenka had squandered her chance to take an early lead in this match after squandering a 5-2 lead. Now she had the advantage again at the end of the first set, and this time, she couldn't overcome it, playing a flawless tiebreaker. She finished it off with a powerful serve that Gauff extended to return the ball back but could only watch as the ball fell a foot from the court.

The way Sabalenka was playing, the only player who was going to beat her was herself. With Gauff holding on for dear life in the second set, avoiding falling behind on several service games, the only question was whether Sabalenka would collapse towards the end as she has done so many times in the past. It happened against Gauff in the US Open final, and it's the kind of raw recent memory that can eat away at a player.

(Martin Cape/AFP via Getty Images)

It didn't crack. Once again, with Gauff on the brink of taking the lead late in the second, Sabalenka came back strong, saving serve from 3-4, then breaking Gauff in the next game by doing what she had done all night – hitting a soft second volley. Serves and forehands to angles that even Gauff can't follow.

Another big, unanswerable serve and Gauff went wide and a powerful backhand volleyed into the net.

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(Top image: Lillian Swanrumfa/AFP via Getty Images)

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