By JAMES MARTINEZ (Associated Press)
NEW YORK (AP) — Aryna Sabalenka moved into the U.S. Open semifinals on Wednesday, looking every bit like a player who soon will be ranked No. 1 while rolling to a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Zheng Qinwen in just over an hour.
Sabalenka, who will take over the top spot in next week’s WTA rankings because of the fourth-round loss of current No. 1 and defending champion Iga Swiatek, still has not dropped a set at Flushing Meadows — and has ceded a total of 21 games through five matches.
Sabalenka cruised through her quarterfinal in heat that approached 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 Celsius), prompting a partial closing of the Arthur Ashe Stadium roof to provide more shade for spectators and players.
The No. 2-seeded Belarusian has made at least the semifinals at the past five Grand Slam tournaments, winning her first major title at the Australian Open in January.
“I just gave myself another opportunity to do better in the semis,” Sabalenka said in her post-match interview. “I still have things to do in New York. … I’ll think about being the world No. 1 after the U.S. Open.”
The other women’s semifinal Thursday will be No. 6 Coco Gauff against No. 10 Karolina Muchova in a matchup of the past two runners-up at the French Open.
Zheng, a 20-year-old from China who reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal by taking out 2022 U.S. Open runner-up Ons Jabeur, fought off a match point with an ace. But she got just 41% of her first serves in play and won just three points against Sabalenka’s first serve.
Next up for Sabalenka is the winner of the night match on Ashe between ninth-seeded Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova and No. 17 American Madison Keys, the 2017 U.S. Open runner-up.
Also scheduled for the day session was Daniil Medvedev against Andrey Rublev in an all-Russian men’s quarterfinal. The third-seeded Medvedev won the title at Flushing Meadows in 2021.
Medvedev or Rublev will meet the winner of the nightcap between defending champion Carlos Alcaraz and No. 12 Alexander Zverev, who won a fourth-round matchup Monday against Jannik Sinner that lasted 4 hours, 41 minutes.
The other men’s semifinals matchup Friday is already set, with No. 2-seeded Novak Djokovic taking on hard-hitting American Ben Shelton.
AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis
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