Gauff fulfilled what had long seemed her destiny by winning in New York, when she fought back from a set down to beat Sabalenka.
This time she was unable to repeat the feat as Sabalenka ended her unbeaten start to the 2024 season.
Gauff came to Melbourne on the back of winning a WTA title in Auckland and did not drop a set in her opening four matches.
But, after scraping past Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk in what she called a “bad” quarter-final, she looked extremely nervy in the early stages of the semi-final.
Gauff’s tension was illustrated by six double faults in the first set, although she also showed her ability to mentally reset as she twice recovered from being a break down.
After soaking up so much pressure, Gauff broke for 6-5 but blew the chance to serve out the set from 30-0 and was punished as Sabalenka dominated the tie-break.
Gauff had to fight off more break points in the first and sixth games of the second set, with the pressure telling when loose errors from the baseline allowed Sabalenka to break for 5-4.
This time, Sabalenka did not allow the opportunity to slip from her grasp and earned the “revenge” she wanted to exact on Gauff for her Flushing Meadows defeat.
“It was a tough match for me,” said Gauff, who looked close to tears while she left Rod Laver Arena.
“Overall it was a positive tournament. I had chances in both sets, but she played better. I think it just came down to a couple of points and that’s tennis.”
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