Aryna Sabalenka took her revenge against Coco Gauff to make it back-to-back Australian Open finals.
Gauff denied Sabalenka a second grand slam title of the year with victory in the US Open final last summer but her winning run at the majors came to an end with a 7-6 (2) 6-4 defeat under the roof on Rod Laver Arena.
Sabalenka will now be a big favourite to win a second-straight title at Melbourne Park on Saturday.
The second seed has been in tremendous form this fortnight, not losing more than three games in any set prior to this semi-final meeting.
Gauff’s stellar powers of defence, which turned the tables in New York after she had lost the first set, ensured she got significantly closer than any of Sabalenka’s previous opponents, but it was still not enough.
Sabalenka came out firing, winning the first seven points and immediately breaking the Gauff serve.
Nerves were on show from both and Gauff hit back to level, but five double faults from the American in her opening three service games proved very costly and Sabalenka opened up a 5-2 lead.
Gauff’s ability to get one more ball back in play than anyone else in the women’s game had put Sabalenka into meltdown mode in New York and she threatened the same here.
Sabalenka failed to serve out the set at 5-3 and Gauff saved a set point in the next game before making it four games in a row, the crowd gasping as the Belarusian pushed a forehand wide with the whole court at her mercy.
Gauff was two points away from taking the set but Sabalenka refused to let history repeat itself, forcing a tie-break, where she put on a display of awesome power that even the athletic American could find no answer to.
Gauff kept her nose in front on serve in the second set and a real test of Sabalenka’s nerve arrived when she trailed 0-30 in the eighth game.
But the 25-year-old responded with four exceptional points, broke Gauff in the next game and served out the victory to become the first woman since Serena Williams in 2016 and 2017 to reach successive finals here.