Australian Open: 'Dream come true' for Linette after reaching first Grand Slam semi-final

Unseeded Pole will face Sabalenka for a place in the final following the Belarusian fifth seed's win over Vekic

Magda Linette celebrates her victory over Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park. EPA
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Magda Linette said it was a "dream come true" to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final after defeating former world No 1 Karolina Pliskova at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

The unseeded Pole, who was expected to play second fiddle in Melbourne to top seeded compatriot Iga Swiatek, beat Czech 30th seed Pliskova 6-3, 7-5 inside Rod Laver Arena and will face Belarusian fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka for a place in the final.

"I'm so emotional, I can't really believe it," Linette, the world No 45, said. "It's a dream come true. I'm super grateful and happy. Thank you for cheering and supporting, I really needed this.

"So we keep going. I don't want to get too excited because we are still in the tournament,"

Sabalenka, the only top-10 seed left in the draw, earned her place in the last four by outmuscling Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-2 in a ferocious battle of big hitters in the second match on a baking Rod Laver Arena.

The Belarusian might have her hands full against unheralded Linette, who played wonderfully controlled tennis that belied her unseeded status to wrap up her victory over Pliskova.

Sabalenka later took her chances in a physical one-hour first set filled with break points before running away with the second to reach her fourth Grand Slam semi-final and first in Melbourne.

Vekic had held a 5-1 career record against the Belarusian but was unable to match the level of the new, improved Sabalenka with 13 double faults not helping the Croatian's cause.

Sabalenka still made plenty of errors but her once-fragile serve was largely solid, and when she got her explosive forehand going it was always going to be hard for Vekic to cope.

Two double faults as Sabalenka served for the match were a reminder of the player she once was but, the 24-year-old saved three break points and sealed the win with a huge forehand that struck the running Vekic in the body.

"She's a great player and it's always tough to against play her," Sabalenka said, before explaining why she thought she had come out on top.

"I think it was because I was calm and I expected this game from her, so I was able to stay in the game no matter what. That was the key."

Linette had no problems serving out her quarter-final against two-time Grand Slam finalist Pliskova, who made 36 unforced errors and was always chasing the match.

The Czech knew she had to raise her game in the second set after losing the first but Linette had the answer to everything thrown at her.

"She really played well from the baseline," said Pliskova. "I just didn't find any space in the court to go for my winners. Obviously the serve was not great today at all."

Linette had never been past the third round at a Grand Slam before arriving at Melbourne Park this year and said a change in mentality was behind her fairytale run.

"I think through all my life I've been taking mistakes, losses very personally," she explained. "So to disconnect [life] as a tennis player and a person was really difficult because I felt a lot of times that the mistakes were defining me."

Updated: January 25, 2023, 6:48 AM
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