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Stat-tastic: Sabalenka rides tsunami of winners to semis

  • Dan Imhoff

Yet to drop a set in nine outings this year, Aryna Sabalenka has every right to feel nigh on untouchable of late, and with good reason.

No other player in the second week of this year’s Australian Open has clocked anywhere close to her staggering tournament-high tally of winners as a percentage of total points won.

Of the 343 points Sabalenka has won so far at AO 2023, 163 have been thanks to winners – a strike rate of 47.52 per cent.

The fifth seed raised it another notch on Wednesday with a 6-3 6-2 score against Donna Vekic, an opponent she had fallen to in five of six prior meetings.

Her success rate of 46.91 per cent – 38 winners from 81 total points won – against the Croatian was only marginally lower than her rate for the tournament.

The 24-year-old refused to get too far ahead of herself, despite having booked a maiden Australian Open semifinal berth.

“I don't like this word 'confidence',” she said. “For me sounds like to be cocky, you know?

“I just feel like I have more believe in myself. I feel like this is the huge difference.”

The difference between the Sabalenka of 2023 and the Sabalenka of previous years was already profound.

She credited a more Zen mindset and a recalibrated service motion for her best showing to date on Australian soil.

Both had invariably contributed to the greater flurry of winners flying from her strings.

When it comes to winners as a percentage of total points won, fourth seed Caroline Garcia came in at a distant second place with 39.86 per cent – 118 winners from 296 points won.

This outpaced men's leader Andrey Rublev, who attained a rate of 39.18 per cent thanks to 228 winners from 582 points won through five rounds.

Caroline Garcia (Getty Images)

Two more women rounded out the top five with Latvian Jelena Ostapenko’s 137 winners off 362 points won (37.85 per cent) putting her ahead of her conqueror, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, whose 128 winners came amid 342 total points, at 37.43 per cent.

Sabalenka’s percentage of winners among total points won at AO 2023 is well above Ostapenko's tour-high rate 37 per cent in this stat category in 2022.

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Ahead of her fourth-round clash with Swiss Belinda Bencic, Sabalenka offered a glimpse into her more mature game plan this year that had in turn contributed to her eye-watering flow of winners.

“I think it's about first few shots,” she said. “I feel like I have to stay really aggressive in the first few shots, and then the easy, like, slower ball or shorter ball will come.

“So I think it's all about fast feet on the first few shots. I have to be like really a tiger, like ready, stay low and ready for that.”

The 24-year-old finished last season with a whopping 428 double faults, 139 more than the next worst offender.

It was a ranking she hoped she never topped again, confident – or hopeful at the very least – that the work she had put in to iron out her inconsistencies continued to pay dividends.

Andrey Rublev (Getty Images)

“I want to believe that the way I'm working right now, the way I'm on the court right now, this is the new beginning, and this is the next step,” Sabalenka said.

“So, I really want to believe that it's going to really help me.”

Winners as a percentage of total points won at AO 2023

1.      Aryna Sabalenka = 163/343 = 47.52%

2.      Caroline Garcia = 118/296 = 39.86%

3.      Andrey Rublev = 228/582 = 39.18%

4.      Jelena Ostapenko = 137/362 = 37.85%

5.      Elena Rybakina = 128/342 = 37.43%

6.      Karolina Pliskova = 113/303 = 37.29%

7.      J.J. Wolf = 170/463 = 36.72%

8.      Stefanos Tsitsipas = 192/548 = 35.04%

9.      Hubert Hurkacz = 195/560 = 34.82%

10.    Donna Vekic = 125/360 = 34.72%