Sabalenka hits a shot against Pliskova
Sabalenka will play Iga Swiatek or Jessica Pegula in the semi-finals
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 29 August-11 September
Coverage: Daily radio commentaries across BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app, with selected live text commentaries and match reports on the website and app

Aryna Sabalenka says she used her ban from Wimbledon as motivation in her quest for Grand Slam success after reaching the US Open semi-finals.

Russian and Belarusian players, such as 24-year-old Sabalenka, were not allowed to play at Wimbledon this year because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The world number six said she used the extra “pre-season” to work on her game.

“I worked really hard, and I worked a lot on my serve,” she said after a win over Karolina Pliskova in the quarters.

“It was a tough time, especially when I was working out in the gym and there was Wimbledon playing on the TV. I was always turning it off because I couldn’t watch it.

“I had a lot of good memories from there, and I miss it very much. That’s why I wasn’t able to watch it, because it reminded me about the great time I had there.

“They took away one opportunity from me, and I worked really hard for this one.”

Sabalenka, who beat Czech 22nd seed Pliskova 6-1 7-6 (7-4), is the second player banned from Wimbledon to reach the US Open singles semi-finals after Russia’s Karen Khachanov booked a spot in the last four of the men’s draw.

“It’s tough and it’s a lot of pressure,” added Sabalenka, who also reached last year’s semi-finals at Flushing Meadows.

“I’m just trying to think in that way, that I’m just an athlete and I have nothing to do with politics.

“I’m just trying to play my best and make sure that people enjoying watching my matches.”

‘I have zero expectation for myself’

Pliskova and Sabalenka
Sabalenka (right) was prevented from avenging last year’s Wimbledon semi-final loss to Pliskova (left) because of the ban on Russian and Belarusian players at this summer’s tournament

Sabalenka was impressive against 2016 runner-up Pliskova, firing seven aces and 30 winners without facing a break point. 

And the former world number two, who will face world number one Iga Swiatek or eighth seed Jessica Pegula for a place in Saturday’s final, feels her game has benefitted after lowering her expectations of herself.

“I felt like, ‘OK, I think this is my time, I’m going to win it’,” she said of last year’s Wimbledon semi-final loss to Pliskova.

“I would say that I didn’t expect her to play that well. I expected me to win the rest of the matches really easy.

“And then I had another experience in the semi-final. I lost it. Now I don’t have any expectations. I know it’s going to be tough, and I know I have to work for it, and I have to fight for it.

“Also, after this season when I was struggling with a lot of things and I couldn’t play my best, but still I was there, I was fighting, and right now, again, I’m in the semi-final, and I have zero expectation for myself.

“Now I will just go there and fight for every point.”

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