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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, January 24, 2023

 
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Contesting her 30th Grand Slam, Magda Linette beat Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 7-5 to reach her maiden major semifinal at the Australian Open.

Photo credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty

Blurred lines once made Magda Linette carry losses from the court into life like tattoos she couldn't remove.

These days, Linette has refined her focus and is rebranding her game in major fashion.

Sabalenka: Someone Help Me Fix This F--king Serve!

Contesting her 30th career Grand Slam, Linette dissected Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 7-5 to advance to her maiden major semifinal at the Australian Open.

When Pliskova's final forehand expired in the tape, Linette flipped her Yonex stick aside and clutched her face in her hands in joyous disbelief.




"It's so emotional I can't really believe it," Linette said. "Dreams come true so we keep going. I don't want to get too excited because we're still in the tournament. I'm super grateful and happy."

The 30-year-old Linette had never been beyond the third round of any major prior to his magical Melbourne run.

Now, she joins world No. 1 Iga Radwanska, who was upset in the fourth round by Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina, and Agnieszka Radwanska, who sat in Linette's support box today, as the third Polish woman to reach the AO semifinals.

Mixing the spins, speeds and height of her shot, Linette kept the flat-hitting Czech moving and rarely gave the powerful Pliskova the pace she craves. Linette won 15 of 21 points played on Pliskova's second serve, broke serve three times and put the two-time major finalist under pressure throughout the latter stages of the second set.

The 45th-ranked Linette will play either No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka for a spot in Saturday's Australian Open final. Sabalenka swept 64th-ranked Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-2. In the top half semifinals, Rybakina faces two-time AO champion Victoria Azarenka.

Given her past major futility, the fact she carried an ignominious 2-7 career record against Pliskova onto court and knew she'd face a power disparity in this match, you can call Linette's biggest major victory a surprise.

Linette believes this dynamic run is a direct result of her disconnect: By giving herself permission to make mistakes she's producing her most ambitious tennis.

"All my life I've been taking mistakes, losses personally," Linette told Jelena Dokic in her on-court interview afterward. "So disconnect those two things, Magda the person and tennis player was really difficult. I felt the mistakes were defining me.

"My coaches did a great job. I'm really thankful to them because they really put up with a lot of crap. I'll never forget this [moment]. That's the first time ever I'm breaking through some really difficult things. This will stay with me for life. I'm really grateful for the support so thank you every much everybody."




The pair traded breaks to open this quarterfinal.

Wearing a bandage above her right knee, Linette leaned low shoveling a forehand crosscourt to stamp the first hold at love for 2-1.

Former world No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska was in Linette's support box and had to like what she saw as the Pole plowed through a second straight love hold for 3-2.

A couple of backhand winners from Linette followed by a double fault and stray forehand from Pliskova helped the world No. 45 breeze through the love break for 4-2.

Serving for the set at 5-3, Linette dodged a break point when Pliskova missed a second-serve return long. On her first set point, Linette closed the 32-minute opener when Pliskova floated another backhand beyond the baseline. The Czech slammed her blue Babolat racquet incurring a code violation warning for racquet abuse in the process.

Perhaps Pliskova could have been more proactive with her footwork and fired her favored forehand more frequently, but ultimately Linette was better on the run today.

"She covers well the crosses, and the moment I go line she plays really good short-angle cross," Pliskova said. "I just found it difficult tactically to play what I normally played the last couple matches.

"Of course she's on a great run. She has nothing to lose. Especially important moments or breakpoints there were couple like tough games also on her serve I thought she just played well. She didn't really miss much. Obviously like lot of credit to her."

The old adage you're only as good as your second serve applied to the first set. Linette won eight of 11 second-serve points, while Pliskova managed just two of 11 second-serve points as the Pole hit deep returns and was effective employing variation to deny the Czech the pace she craves.



Linette won three of her six games at love to snatch the first set.

Trying to find her favored forehand more frequently and get out of the backhand-to-backhand exchanges, Pliskova powered through her first shutout hold of the day for a 2-1 second set lead.

The 2021 Wimbledon finalist was striking returns with more conviction as she earned a pair of break points in the fourth game. Linette erased both, including carving out a clever backhand drop shot on the first, as she held firm to level after four games.

The 30th-seeded Czech stared down triple break point in the fifth game and swept it aside with a series of heavy first serves. Pliskova beat back the stress edging ahead 3-2.

Tennis Express

Sixty-seven minutes into the match, Pliskova pumped a slick running forehand winner down the line to save another break point. On her second break point, Linette bungled a backhand drop shot attempt as the Czech clawed back to deuce.

For the second game in a row, a pumped-up Pliskova denied break points for a 4-3 lead.

The serve is a foundational stroke in Pliskova's power-based game.

It crumbled in the 11th game. The Czech clanked consecutive double faults to face double break point then pasted a flat forehand into net gifting Linette the break and a 6-5 advantage.

When Pliskova's final drive died in net, Linette's magical Melbourne run hit another high.


 

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