Magda Linette reacted with disbelief after continuing her dream run into the semi-finals of the Australian Open on Wednesday with a stunning 6-3 7-5 victory over former world number one Karolina Pliskova.
The unheralded Pole played wonderfully controlled tennis that belied her ranking of 45th in the world to wrap up a thoroughly deserved victory in the blazing sun on Rod Laver Arena.
Linette had been expected to play second fiddle to compatriot Iga Swiatek at Melbourne Park but will now battle for a place in the final against Aryna Sabalenka or Donna Vekic, who face off in Wednesday’s second quarter-final.
“It’s so much and I can’t really believe it,” the 30-year-old said. “It’s really dreams come true. We keep going, though, I don’t want to get too excited because we’re still in the tournament, but I’m super grateful and happy.”
After both players were broken in their opening service game, Linette showed the greater composure and took control of the first set as twice Grand Slam finalist Pliskova racked up 14 of the 36 unforced errors she would make over the match.
Pliskova knew she had to raise her game in the second set and ramped up the rasping forehands but Linette had the answer to everything the Czech threw at her.
She saved two break points to hold for 2-2 and then earned three of her own on Pliskova’s next service game only for the Czech to battle back with a couple of big winners.
The set stayed on serve but Linette appeared to have the upper hand, winning one point with a sublime running backhand crosscourt winner, and she pounced to break for 6-5 when Pliskova offered her two chances with a double fault.
She threw her racket to the ground after serving out nervelessly for the match, clasping her head and staring wide-eyed at her box after reaching the last four for the first time in 30 Grand Slam appearances.
“I will never forget this,” she added. “I’m breaking through some really difficult things for me. This will stay with me for life. So I’m really grateful.”
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.
“My coaches did a really great job and I’m really thankful to them because they really put up with a lot of crap.”
Later on Wednesday, Ben Shelton and Tommy Paul meet in the first all-American men’s Grand Slam quarter-final since 2007, and overwhelming favourite Novak Djokovic faces Andrey Rublev in bid to reach a 10th Melbourne Park semi-final.