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Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina favored to meet in Aussie finals

Jan 14, 2023; Melbourne, Victoria, Australia;  Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus hits a shot during a practice session at Kia Arena at Melbourne Park. Mandatory Credit: Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports

Aryna Sabalenka is favored to claim her first career Grand Slam title at the Australian Open despite having yet to reach her first final.

Sabalenka, 24, blitzed her way to the semifinals for the first time at Melbourne Park. Not only has she not dropped a set, the Belarusian has lost a total of just 26 games through her first five matches.

After dispatching of Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals, Sabalenka will face yet another unranked player in Magda Linette in the semifinals.

Sabalenka is the heavy favorite at -450 by BetMGM to get past Linette (+333), who is in her first career semifinal as well after upsetting four seeds through her first five matches. That includes taking out No. 16 Anett Kontaveit, No. 19 Ekaterina Alexandrova, No. 4 Caroline Garcia and No. 30 Karolina Pliskova in consecutive matches.

Still, Linette remains the longest shot to claim the women’s title at +900 at BetMGM, where Sabalenka is the favorite at +125. Just behind her is Elena Rybakina at +150, who will take on two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka (+400) in the other semifinal.

Azarenka took out BetMGM’s biggest liability in the quarterfinals, dominating No. 3 seed Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-1. While her odds have shortened from opening at +3300, Azarenka has still drawn only 3.0 percent of the winning tickets and 3.3 percent of the money at the sportsbook.

Meanwhile, Sabalenka’s odds have shifted from +1200 to +125 while being backed by 10.8 and 23.4 percent of the action, respectively. That makes her BetMGM’s biggest remaining liability in the field.

Sabalenka is in her fourth career Grand Slam semifinal, but she has yet to advance to a championship match. While facing three unseeded players through her first five matches, the highest seed Sabalenka has defeated in Melbourne thus far is No. 12 Belinda Bencic.

“I’ve been — how to say — in the semifinals before, and I get there with all that up and downs,” Sabalenka said after beating Vekic. “All those up and downs didn’t help me at all in the semifinals. So right now it’s going to be a really (big) test for me, if I can keep myself calm like I was keeping myself calm during these past matches.”

According to the BetRivers data, Sabalenka has been backed by 52.8 percent of the tickets and 73.4 percent of the money to win the women’s title. That’s well ahead of Rybakina (26.4, 12.4), Azarenka (13.3, 3.6) and Linette (7.5, 10.6).

For the 30-year-old Linette, who had never previously advanced past the third round of a major, each win marks a new milestone.

“I will never forget this,” Linette said after her quarterfinal match. “This will stay with me for life.”

–Field Level Media