MELBOURNE: Fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka was in unstoppable mood Monday as she sprinted into her maiden quarterfinal at the Australian Open, blowing away Belinda Bencic with a brutal display of power hitting.
The Belarusian fifth seed won 7-5, 6-2 in 1hr 27min on Rod Laver Arena to set up a last-eight clash against either Donna Vekic or Linda Fruhvirtova.
Sabalenka was troubled only once in the match, dropping her serve early in the first set to the Swiss 12th seed.
But she demonstrated her new-found mental steel, all too often missing from her game in the past, to calmly break back and take the initiative.
“My whole life, it took me a little while to understand that negative emotion is not gonna help you on court,” said Sabalenka, who reached the US Open semifinal last season but had never been beyond the fourth round at Melbourne Park before.
“You have to just stay strong and believe no matter what and then do everything you can.
“So just super happy with the mind set during the game today. Yeah, I did a wonderful job.”
Sabalenka and Bencic have both been on a roll this year in Australia and came into the first Grand Slam of the year as the form players.
They each won titles in Adelaide this month, both were yet to drop a set in Melbourne before the last-16 showdown, and both were on seven-match unbeaten runs.
The Belarusian had taken just 74 minutes to rip past her former doubles partner Elise Mertens in the previous round.
Bencic, of Switzerland, was just as dominant in her 6-2, 7-5 victory over Italy’s Camila Giorgi.
The pair exchanged early breaks in a high-quality first set which ended on a sour note for Bencic, who blinked first under relentless pressure from Sabalenka.
Serving at 5-6, Sabalenka hammered a forehand return winner past the Swiss to bring up two set points, only for Bencic to serve her fourth double fault and gift the advantage to her higher-ranked opponent after 52 minutes.
At 2-1 in the second, Sabalenka increased the intensity again, pummelling deep returns.
Bencic, no slouch herself when it comes to hitting a tennis ball hard, was forced into the retreat.
The Swiss again faltered on break point, this time serving her seventh double fault.
Sabalenka sensed the finish line approaching, powering down a fourth ace next game to extend her lead to 4-1.
The end soon followed, another forehand winner sealing a second break and the match.