Aryna Sabalenka, soon to be new No. 1, cruises into US Open semifinals

Coco Gauff plays in other semi on Thursday
Aryna Sabalenka, of Belarus, reacts after defeating Zheng Qinwen, of China, during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis championships, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig
Posted at 5:15 PM, Sep 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-07 00:35:36-04

NEW YORK — Aryna Sabalenka joined Delray Beach resident Coco Gauff in U.S. Open semifinals, 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 Wednesday afternoon.

In Thursday night’s semifinals, Sabalenka will meet 2017 U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys, an American who saved all nine break points she faced during a 6-1, 6-4 victory over reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova.

The other women’s semifinal Thursday will Gauff against No. 10 Karolina Muchova in a matchup of the past two runners-up at the French Open. It is scheduled for 7 p.m. On Tuesday, Gauff defeated 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-0, 6-2.

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, prompting a partial closing of the Arthur Ashe Stadium roof to provide more shade for spectators and players.

"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."

Sabalenka, a 25-year-old from Belarus, said her training base in the United States prepared her well for the heat and humidity, which rose above 50%.

“I mean, it was hot, but because I did my preparation in Florida — I mean, what can be worse than Florida? I mean, in July and June, you know. Not, like, overall. So I think that’s really (helping) me today to stay strong and (not) really get tired because of the heat.”

In the men's bracket, Daniil Medvedev has reached his fourth U.S. Open semifinal as the heat and humidity continue to rise at the Grand Slam tennis tournament.

He looked into a courtside TV camera in the final set of a 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Andrey Rublev and warned that a player is "‘gonna die" in the nearly 95-degree Fahrenheit conditions. Medvedev was the 2021 U.S. Open champion.

He called for medical attention during changeovers and used an inhaler.

Medvedev will face defending men's champion Carlos Alcaraz next. Alcaraz beat Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

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.