Magda Linette stunned former world number one Karolina Pliskova on Wednesday to advance to the semifinals of the Australian Open, where she will face fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka.
Sabalenka, the only top-10 seed still alive, advanced to the semifinals by defeating Donna Vekic, 6-3, 6-2, in the second match on a scorching Rod Laver Arena.
The underdog Belarusian may have her hands full with unseeded Linette, who defeated world number 45 Pliskova 6-3, 7-5 with a performance that belied her position.
At Melbourne Park, Linette was supposed to take a backseat to fellow Pole Iga Swiatek, but instead, she will play in her maiden Grand Slam semi-final on Thursday against the winner deciding whether she will face Victoria Azarenka or Elena Rybakina in the final.
The 30-year-old remarked, “It’s so much and I can’t really believe it.” This is something that I will never forget. Several barriers that have been holding me back are beginning to crumble. I’ll remember this forever. I appreciate it very much.
Later, Sabalenka capitalised on opportunities in a tough opening set that lasted an hour and had numerous break points, and she blew through the second set to advance to her fourth Grand Slam semi-final and first in Melbourne.
Vekic entered the match with a 5-1 record against the Belarusian, but she lost in straight sets after making 13 double faults. Sabalenka is now 2-0 versus Vekic in their head-to-head matchup.
Although Sabalenka still committed numerous unforced errors, her previously-weak serve was now quite reliable, and once she got her explosive forehand going, Vekic had little chance.
Sabalenka, now 24 years old, saved three break points and won the match with a massive forehand that smacked the running Vekic in the body after committing two double faults on match point.
Sabalenka began her post-match press conference by saying, “She’s a superb player and it’s always tough to play her,” before going on to detail her match strategy and why she believed she had won.
I was prepared for her to play this game, so I was able to remain level-headed and persistent despite the challenges. To put it simply, that was the determining factor.
Linette easily served out her quarterfinal match against Pliskova, who had reached the finals of the Grand Slam tournament twice before but had lost both times. Pliskova committed 36 unforced errors and was always playing catch-up.
In order to avoid falling behind 2-0, the Czech knew she had to play better in the second set, but Linette was ready for anything.
She did a great job from the baseline, Pliskova remarked. I couldn’t find an open area to shoot for winners. Obviously, today’s serve wasn’t very good.
Before arriving at Melbourne Park this year, Linette had never advanced past the third round at a Grand Slam tournament. She credits a shift in her mindset for her miraculous run this year.