“I don’t know how I managed to turn the match around. I really wanted to finally reach the final,” commented the 25-year-old Belarusian who completely missed her first set before recovering. She remained on two failures in the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows and will try on Saturday to win a second Grand Slam title after the Australian Open in January. To do this, she will have to beat the American nugget Coco Gauff (6th at 19 years old). “I will be there, I will fight on all points, I will do my best,” she promised for this final. Thursday, facing an opponent who was immediately very incisive, Sabalenka committed 12 unforced errors in the first set and was overwhelmed by Keys who made 12 winning shots.
Sabalenka started the second set on a better footing by finally winning her faceoff, what's more without leaving the slightest point to her opponent. But she fell back into her mistakes and conceded another break to find herself trailing 2-1. She then got angry, exchanged a few words with her team before throwing her racket in their direction... and receiving a warning.
After this incident, she seemed to manage to channel her frustration into aggression in her strikes. She immediately broke up. But Keys did not give up: in the next game, on Sabalenka's serve, the harder the Belarusian hit, the faster the ball came back to her, until the American regained the advantage of a break. And when Keys didn't land dazzling shots, it was Sabalenka alone who scuttled himself with unforced errors galore (11 in the second set).
"It's a joke, it's a fucking joke!" she then belched. Keys held on to his advantage and served for the game at 5-4. But she lost her white service game. From 3-5 to 6-5, Belarus won 12 of the 13 points played. Then she had two balls to tie at one set everywhere, but Keys erased them with an ace and a service winner, before pushing the set to the tiebreaker. Sabalenka was unstoppable.
The American then took a medical timeout off the court before the start of the third set. She came back with a big bandage on her left thigh. In the deciding set, after an exchange of services, the two players reached the super tie break. Sabalenka quickly took over and thought she had won when she scored the seventh point: she dropped her racket, brought her hands to her face, turning to her clan, only to be told that she had to go as far as ten... "I thought it was over at 7... Fortunately, I managed to stay focused because the match could have changed," she said.