US Open finalist tells team ‘you’re fired’ ahead of crunch Coco Gauff clash

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Aryna Sabalenka somehow reached the final of the US Open in New York on Thursday evening, before suggesting that her entire coaching team were getting the boot. The Belarusian will become the new world No. 1 next week, but she had to dig deep to find a way past American Madison Keys, who brought her A-game to Flushing Meadows amid a thunderous atmosphere.

Keys made a sensation start, taking the first set 6-0 in less than half an hour. Her incredible opening rattled Sabalenka, who cut a frustrated figure. The second seed could be seen exchanging heated words with her courtside team and at one point even tried to hurl her racket at them.

But the Australian Open champion has appeared in every Grand Slam semi-final this season for a reason and she showed grit and determination to fight back and edge out her in-form American opponent 0-6, 7-6, 7-6 to clinch her second major final spot of the year.

The overjoyed 25-year-old was asked about her clear frustrations during the match and the flashpoints she was having with her team.

Sabalenka joked: “They fired, they’re not my team anymore. It’s all their fault,” before adding: “No, no. I mean, we spoke a lot after those tough semi-finals and we spoke that if I need to throw those emotions, I have to do it. Otherwise, I’ll just, I don’t know eat myself from the inside. So that’s why I was just like yelling, screaming, swearing to them.

“I mean I think they know that I still love them. It’s just for better, you know, it’s for a good reason. I don’t know guys, it’s too late. I am really struggling speaking, especially English.”

Sabalenka became the tournament favourite after top seed Iga Swiatek was eliminated in the round of 16 by Jelena Ostapenko. But any suggestion that the highest-ranked player left in the competition will simply cruise to a second career Grand Slam title has been put into perspective by the performance of Keys, who was only one tie-break away from making the final herself.

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Sabalenka paid tribute to her semi-final opponent after the match, explaining how the American had put her on the ropes.

She said: “I was all over the place. I was just, like, what can I do? Like, she’s playing unbelievable, just, like, crushing everything. I’m not able to do anything, I had zero control in the match. I was just telling myself, I mean, okay, there is going to be this like this? Somebody going to just play their best tennis?”

“You just have to keep trying, keep staying there, and keep pushing it. Maybe you’ll be able to turn around this game. Lucky me, somehow magically, I don’t know how I was able to turn around this game.”

Sabalenka will now face sixth-seed American Coco Gauff in Saturday’s final.

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