MELBOURNE, Australia — Two days after advancing to her first Grand Slam tournament quarterfinal, unseeded Magda Linette went one better and is into the Australian Open semifinals.
The 30-year-old Linette beat Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 7-5, adding the former No. 1 to the list of top players she has beaten at Melbourne Park during this tournament.
Linette, who had lost seven of nine previous matches against Pliskova, had defeated Anett Kontaveit, Ekaterina Alexandrova and WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia in successive rounds.
A player from Poland was favored to reach the latter stages of the tournament, but it was top-seeded Iga Swiatek that everyone would have expected – and not Linette.
“It’s so emotional I can’t really believe it,” Linette said. “I tried to stay composed and took my chances when I could.”
Linette will play No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka, who beat unseeded Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-2 in a later quarterfinal. The women’s semifinals are scheduled for Thursday night.
Vekic, who had 13 double faults against Sabalenka, had a succinct appraisal of her serve: “I mean, it was all over the place. But I think mostly in the net.”
The other women’s semifinalists were determined on Tuesday. Two-time former Australian champion Victoria Azarenka will play Wimbledon titleholder Elena Rybakina for a chance to play in Saturday night’s final. Rybakina beat Swiatek in the fourth round.
Later Wednesday, the remaining men’s semifinalists will be determined. Unseeded Americans Ben Shelton and Tommy Paul play before nine-time champion Novak Djokovic takes on Andrey Rublev.
Djokovic will be looking to qualify for his 44th Grand Slam semifinal and a win in that match on Friday would advance him on Sunday night to his 33rd major singles final.
The other men’s semifinal on Friday will see third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas play Karen Khachanov.
MELBOURNE, Australia – Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina advanced to the Australian Open semifinals with a 6-2, 6-4 win over former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.
The match on Rod Laver Arena featured a rare rain delay of about 20 minutes while the roof was closed. Rybakina led 3-1 and was holding a break point before the delay. On return, Ostapenko saved the first break point, but Rybakina broke on her next opportunity to go up 4-1 and won the first set 6-2.
In the second set, Ostapenko was up a break but Rybakina leveled with a break of her own. It came on her first break point when Ostapenko had been unable to convert four in the previous game.
Rybakina, who beat top-seeded Iga Swiatek in the fourth round, set up match points with aces, both of which were saved by Ostapenko. But she clinched the match with another ace, her 11th of the match and a tournament-leading 35 overall.
“I was nervous in the last game, but I managed my emotions and played very well.” Rybakina said. “The conditions were different after the roof was closed. But it can happen here, you never know, on the morning one weather and later it changes.”
Rybakina will play the winner of the night quarterfinal between American Jessica Pegula, at No. 3 the highest women’s seed remaining, and two-time champion Victoria Azarenka.
In men’s quarterfinals, 22-year-old American Sebastian Korda played the next match at Rod Laver Arena against No. 18-seeded Karen Khachanov. In a night quarterfinal, third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas plays Jiri Lehecka. The winners of those matches will play each other in the semifinals on Friday.
MELBOURNE, Australia — It took about a week for Novak Djokovic to go from worrying about whether he simply could play a match at all on his injured left hamstring to thinking he can win the Australian Open.
And one pain-free, nearly perfect performance in the fourth round made a world of difference.
“Tonight, the way I played, the way I felt, gives me reason now to believe that I can go all the way,” Djokovic said after completely overwhelming 22nd-seeded Alex de Minaur 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals for the 13th time at Melbourne Park and 54th time at all Grand Slam tournaments.
“I mean, I always believe I can go all the way, in terms of my tennis,” continued Djokovic, whose 21 major championships include nine in Australia. “But the way my leg felt before tonight wasn’t giving me too many hopes, so to say, for the entire tournament, to go all the way through. Tonight I feel that, so I feel positive about it.”
A year ago, he got kicked out of the country before the Australian Open because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19. He still hasn’t gotten the shots, but the government’s coronavirus rules have been relaxed.
After looking out of joint occasionally in his first three matches in the tournament last week, sometimes stumbling to the ground, sometimes seeking treatment from a trainer, the 35-year-old from Serbia looked like his usual flexible, court-covering, dominant self at Rod Laver Arena against de Minaur.
Djokovic won 42 of 64 points that lasted five shots or more. He accumulated a 26-9 edge in winners. He won all 12 of his service games, never facing a single break point. Generally considered the best returner in the game now – and, perhaps, ever – Djokovic earned a dozen break chances and converted half.
He broke to lead 4-2 in the first set and again to end it. He broke to go up 2-0 and 4-0 in the second. He broke for advantages of 1-0 and 3-0 in the third.
“It just felt like constant pressure today. Every service game I had, wasn’t getting free points. It felt like an uphill battle from the start,” de Minaur said. “Never really was able to get my teeth into the match, make it tough for him, or bring the pressure moments and situations.”
Djokovic said he felt “fantastic” and “really great in terms of mobility and movement.”
In addition to taking “a lot” of anti-inflammatory pills to help the hamstring, Djokovic said he has been using “different treatments and machines and stuff” to help improve his leg. He also cautioned that he does not “want to celebrate too early, ’cause I don’t know how the body’s going to respond tomorrow and for the next match.”
Yes, there are still contests to come and players to contend with.
His upcoming opponent is No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev, who will head into their matchup Wednesday with an 0-6 record in Grand Slam quarterfinals. That day’s other men’s match will be between two unseeded Americans in their 20s who’ve never been this far at a major tournament: Ben Shelton and Tommy Paul.
The men’s quarterfinals scheduled for Tuesday: No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas against unseeded Jiri Lehecka, and No. 18 Karen Khachanov vs. No. 29 Sebastian Korda.
Of the seven remaining men other than Djokovic, none has won a Grand Slam title and only Tsitsipas ever has even reached a major final, and that was just once, losing to – yep, you guessed it – Djokovic at the French Open in 2021.
“I’ve been in this situation so many times before,” Djokovic said, leaning back in his chair and placing both palms on his chest. “From that point of view I think it helps me have kind of a more, let’s say, clear approach to the remaining days of the tournament and what I need to do. Of course, I’ll keep an eye on all the other matches, see how the other guys are doing. We’ll see what happens.”
De Minaur, for one, knows what he thinks is going to happen.
“What I experienced today was probably Novak very close to his best, I would say,” he said. “To me, if that’s the level, I think he’s definitely the guy that’s going to take the title.”
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