Dayana Yastremska has become the first qualifier to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open since 1978 after ending the giant-killing run of Czech teenager Linda Noskova. Ukrainian player Yastremska defied her world ranking again on Wednesday, outclassing Noskova 6-3 6-4.
The 23-year-old is the first qualifier since Aussie player Christine Dorey to make the final four at the Australian Open - a staggering 46 years ago. She had already become the first qualifier since Jelena Dokic at Wimbledon in 1999 to beat two grand slam champions at the same major - Victoria Azarenka and Marketa Vondrousova.
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"It's nice to make history because at that time I still wasn't born because I was [born in] 2000," Yastremska said of her 46-year first. "So it's next generation and I'm super happy, really happy tired."
Noskova had taken out three seeded players on her run to the quarters, including World No.1 Iga Swiatek. But the 19-year-old found herself on the back foot from the get-go on Rod Laver Arena on Thursday and never recovered.
Yastremska's stunning form has provided some inspiration to Ukraine amid a difficult time. She is among a number of Ukrainian players who have been opting against shaking hands with opponents from Russia and Belarus.
The 23-year-old wrote an emotional tribute to her homeland on a courtside camera after the most significant win of her career to date. "The Ukrainian fighters, I'm very proud of them," she said in her post-match press conference. "They really deserve a huge respect. I always try to write something for Ukraine, about Ukraine. It's my mission here. If I do well, I can get to express. I'm just trying to give the signal to Ukraine that I'm really proud of it."
Dayana Yastremska defends Yelyzaveta Kotliar
But one Ukrainian player has fallen foul of her country's tennis federation after claiming she forgot about the no-handshake stance. Sixteen-year-old Yelyzaveta Kotliar shook hands with Russian opponent Vlada Mincheva after their match in the opening round of the junior girls competition.
The Ukrainian Tennis Federation is reportedly investigating the incident, with the teenager's father explaining that she simply forgot what she was supposed to be doing in the heat of the moment. “The atmosphere here is extraordinary, which in itself puts a lot of pressure on the athletes,” he said in a statement released by the UTF.
“At the beginning of your career, it’s hard to cope with this and not be nervous. Unfortunately, my daughter didn’t feel calm, her emotions were running high, so she wasn’t completely in control of her behaviour.
“She automatically performed the post-match ritual, not realising that behind the net there was a representative of the country who launched the attack on our homeland. It was definitely a mistake that Liza regrets and assures us that she will never allow anything like that to happen again.” Nevertheless the incident has drawn the ire of the federation, who described the handshake as 'unpleasant'.
🇷🇺🇺🇦 Russian Vlada Mincheva and Ukrainian Elizaveta Kotlyar shook hands after a match at the junior Australian Open. The Russian girl won the match.
Previously, Ukrainian tennis players repeatedly refused to shake hands after matches with rivals from Russia and Belarus. pic.twitter.com/YbMpYljfw4
— Bernadette (@BDooher) January 20, 2024
After her win on Wednesday, Yastremska defended her compatriot: “You know, Ukrainians, we have our position," she said. "We’re not shaking their hands. But I think she’s still a little bit young, not so experienced and it can happen with anyone.
“I cannot judge her because I don’t know what was in her head. On purpose or not on purpose, I don’t know. But I’m sure that she stands by Ukraine and just got too emotional and confused.”
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