Unseeded Polish player Magda Linette was full of emotion on Wednesday at Melbourne Park after keeping her "dream" run alive by booking a spot in the semi-finals of the Australian Open. The 30-year-old upset former World No.1 Karolina Pliskova to seal her spot in the last-four of the grand slam.
Linette grabbed the crucial break in the 11th game of the second set and held her nerve to serve out the match, winning 6-3 7-5 in one hour, 27 minutes. The victory continues a fairytale run in Melbourne for the Pole, who had never advanced further than the third round in her previous 29 grand slam appearances.
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Speaking to former Aussie tennis star and commentator Jelena Dokic after the match, Linette choked back tears describing what the victory meant to her.
"It's so emotional; I can't really believe it," she said. "Dreams come true. We keep going though, she said as tears welled up in her eyes.
"I don't want to get too excited because we're still in the tournament but I'm super grateful and happy."
The late-blooming Pole admitted she had become much better at managing her emotions on the court. "All through my life I've been taking mistakes and losses very personally, so I had to disconnect those two things," she said.
"It was really difficult, because I felt a lot of times that the misses, the mistakes, were defining me. My coaches and I did a really great job, and I'm really thankful to them, because they really put up with a lot of crap."
Each and every one of the Polish star's scalps at Melbourne Park this year have been players ranked inside the world's top 50. The loss means Pliskova's long wait for a maiden grand slam title stretches on.
The 30-year-old Czech has lost both of her major finals - at the 2016 US Open to Angelique Kerber and at Wimbledon two years ago to Ash Barty. Linette faces a semi-final showdown against Belarusian No.5 seed Aryna Sabalenka, who beat unseeded Croatian Donna Vekic 6-3 6-2 later on Wednesday.
Victoria Azarenka aiming for third Australian Open title
Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka is also in the final four after stunning world No.3 Jessica Pegula 6-4 6-1 on Tuesday night. Azarenka became emotional when asked about her 2013 semi-final triumph over Sloane Stephens, where she was accused of gamesmanship for taking medical timeouts after blowing five match points.
"It was one of the worst things that I've ever gone through in my professional career: the way I was treated after that moment, the way I had to explain myself until 10.30pm at night because people didn't want to believe me," Azarenka said.
"I actually can resonate with what Novak (Djokovic) said the other day: there is sometimes, like, I don't know, incredible desire for a villain and a hero story that has to be written. But we're not villains, we're not heroes. We are regular human beings that go through so many things.
"Assumptions and judgements, all those comments, are just s*** because nobody's there to see the full story. It didn't matter how many times I said my story, it did not cut through. It took me 10 f***ing years to get over it. I finally am over that."
Azarenka, the 2012 and 2013 Australian Open champion, next faces 22nd seed and Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina on Thursday for a spot in the final. The 33-year-old respects the formidable challenge standing between her and a sixth grand slam final appearance on Saturday night.
"Her ranking obviously doesn't tell the full story," the former World No.1 said about her Kazakh rival. "She's very powerful. Big serve. She's in the semi-final, so she's obviously playing amazing."
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