NEW YORK : World number two Aryna Sabalenka bulldozed her way past Barbora Krejcikova 6-1 6-4 on Tuesday to reach the U.S. Open semi-final for the first time.
Sabalenka had three double faults in the first game at Arthur Ashe Stadium but still managed to hold serve, then came back in the second game to break a listless Krejcikova, who had just five winners in the first set and struggled badly with her serve.
Krejcikova, who captured her maiden major at Roland Garros this year, saw her serve broken at the start of the second set and while she got a bit of her spark back as the match went on it was too little, too late.
Belarusian Sabalenka, who reached the semi-final at Wimbledon, won eight of the first 10 points in the second set and did not face a single break point after fending off five of the six she faced in the first set.
She closed out the match after one hour and 26 minutes with an ace and beamed at the cheering New York crowd.
"I’m really enjoying my game here and every second on this court," said Sabalenka
Playing in the U.S. Open main draw for the first time after five failed attempts to qualify, Krejcikova said her "tank is empty" after arriving in New York on the heels of a jam-packed schedule.
"At some point for sure I've got to stop, I've got to rest. It's really hard to say right now because there are just still so many tournaments coming up. I have to find a good schedule," she said.
"Right now I didn't know that the situation is going to be like this, that I'm going to be sitting here, be a top-10 player, have a chance to be in one of the main rooms."
Dissatisfied with elements of her performance, Sabalenka, who won the Madrid Open in May, hit the practice courts after her match before facing the media.
"I needed extra balls kind of a little bit to move, a little bit to feel my legs, to feel the move, to feel the court," she said. "Also my serve was really, I wouldn't say terrible, but was really bad today. I was trying to find the rhythm."
In the semi-final she will face 19-year-old crowd favourite Leylah Fernandez, who has defeated former champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber, as well as world number five Elina Svitolina, to reach the last four.
"It's nothing to lose for her. She's fighting for every point. The crowd are there and they are supporting her really loud," said Sabalenka.
"I was practicing today, and we didn't really need to watch the score because we heard ... the crowd really yelling."
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Peter Rutherford)