US Open winner Coco Gauff to play Australian Open titleholder Sabalenka in semifinals

MELBOURNE, Australia — Coco Gauff hopes she’s got her “bad” match out of the way at the Australian Open before meeting defending champion Aryna Sabalenka in the semifinals.

The 19-year-old U.S. Open winner overcame 51 unforced errors, nine double-faults and had just 17 winners to beat Marta Kostyuk 7-6 (6), 6-7 (3), 6-2 Tuesday in a quarterfinal match that lasted 3 hours, 8 minutes.

That long three-setter had a knock-on effect that made for a light but long night at Melbourne Park. It took Novak Djokovic 3 3/4 hours to hold off Taylor Fritz 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 and reach the Australian Open semifinals for the 11th time.

The first game took 16 minutes, the first set lasted 1 hour, 24 minutes. In the end, top-ranked Djokovic extended his winning streak at Melbourne Park to 33 matches, a tournament record he shares with Monica Seles.

Djokovic is unbeaten in semifinals and finals at the Australian Open, where he’s won 10 of his record 24 major titles.

Sabalenka’s title defense has been gathering momentum and her 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 9-seeded Barbora Krejcikova was her fifth straight-sets victory in a row.

The extra-long day session pushed the start of the night session back to after 9 p.m. local time, with Krejcikova serving to start the first of the two night quarterfinals at 9:09 p.m.

“I played great tennis,” Sabalenka said. “I hope I can keep playing that way, or even better.”

It wasn’t until after 10:30 p.m. that No. 4 Jannik Sinner and No. 5 Andrey Rublev went on court to start warming up for their match.

Gauff has won 12 consecutive matches in Grand Slams and is two victories from winning back-to-back major titles, but she had a close call against first-time quarterfinalist Kostyuk.

“Today was definitely a C game,” Gauff said. “Didn’t play my best tennis but really proud that I was able to get through. Hopefully got the bad match out of the way and I can play even better.”

Gauff’s forehand was particularly vulnerable and Kostyuk took full advantage, racing to 5-1 only to show her own fragility with two double faults to hand back one of the breaks.

She recovered to save a set point at 5-3 before leveling at 5-5. Kostyuk had another set point in the tiebreaker but Gauff won it.

The mistakes continued to flow, and though she led 5-3 in the second set, Gauff could not close it out. She was two points from victory at 6-5, 40-40, but Kostyuk held and took the tiebreak 7-3 to level.

The Ukrainian player said she was pleased to have made the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

“Very proud of myself,” she said. “I won for myself today and it’s the most important thing. It’s just the beginning of the season. Looking forward for what’s ahead.”


AP Sports Writer John Pye contributed


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