Magda Linette’s dream run at the Australian Open continued when she stunned Karolina Pliskova, the former World No 1, in the quarter-finals on Wednesday, 6-2 7-5, to reach the semi-finals for the first time.
Dreams come true, we keep going. I don't want to get too excited because we're still in the tournament, but I'm super grateful and happy. Magda Linette
Pliskova became Linette’s 4th consecutive seeded victim of the fortnight, after seeing off 3 Top 20 seeds in succession, 16th Anett Kontaveit, No 19 Ekaterina Alexandrova and 4th-seeded Caroline Garcia, to become the 9th-oldest woman in the Open Era to reach a debut Grand Slam quarter-final.
“I’m so emotional, I can’t really believe it,” Linette said after the biggest win of her career. “It’s a dream come true.
“I’m super grateful and happy. Thank you for cheering and supporting, I really needed this.”
Content to slip under the radar, two-time major finalist Pliskova had spent less time on court than any of her quarter-final peers.
Standing 6ft 1in (1.86m) tall, Pliskova had, by far, the greater experience in Grand Slams, and was making her 4th appearance in the AO quarters, and had swept there without dropping a set, largely on the back of serving 28 aces, including 12 in her romp past China’s Zhang Shuai in the previous round.
She managed only 7 on Wednesday, though, in a stuttering display against Linette, committing a massive 36 unforced errors to her opponent’s 16.
“She really made it difficult for me,” Pliskova told reporters. “She really played well from the baseline.
“I just didn’t find any space in the court to go for my winners, [and] obviously, the serve was not great today at all.”
Linette, the World No 45, has kept the Polish flag flying after her compatriot and World No 1 Iga Swiatek fell early, beating her far more experienced Czech opponent in an hour 17 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
“Dreams come true, we keep going,” the 30-year old added. “I don’t want to get too excited because we’re still in the tournament, but I’m super grateful and happy.”
Regardless of what happens next, Linette now will break into the top 30 for the first time at No 22.
Pliskova is also 30, but held a big advantage over the Pole, having won 6 of their first 7 meetings, and then, last year, needing a final set tiebreak to win at the US Open before Linette finally beat her at the Billie Jean King Cup.
In her 30th major main draw appearance, Linette became the 3rd Polish woman in 7 years to reach the AO Last 4, following Swiatek and Agnieszka Radwanksa, who was cheering from her player box.
“I will never forget this,” Linette said. “It’s the first time ever I’m breaking through… [These are] difficult things for me. I mean, this will stay with me for life, so I’m really grateful.”
Linette was broken in the very first game of the match, but that was her only loss of serve all day, and she immediately pulled back level at 1-1.
She opened the 3-2 game by following a backhand slice with a winning drop-shot, and she broke Pliskova to love from there.
Serving for the set at 5-3, the Pole stared down a break point after a blistering forehand by the Czech, but Linette pulled herself out of trouble to move within a set away from her first major semi-final.
In the second, Pliskova erased 3 break points in each of her service games at 2-2 and 3-3, but she faltered at 5-5 with two double-faults in a row and a subsequent forehand miscue.
Linette grabbed her chance, converting her first match point at 6-5 for another huge upset.
“I definitely stayed composed at the beginning because she had a really good break at the very start of the match,” said Linette. “I knew how tough it was going to be to break her back, so I just stayed really composed, and I’m really happy that when I had my chance I took it.
“I’m glad that I managed to serve it out and then, later on, when I had the opportunity to break her again, I took my chances.”
Linette also was proud of how she handled the pressure moments on a big stage.
“When it was really tough on my serve, she was getting very aggressive,” she said. “My first serve wasn’t always there.
“I think I did really well not to panic and still stay in the rally and go for the shots when I had the chance.”
Making inroads on return against one of the tour’s most prolific servers was no mean feat, but Linette succeeded to flummox Pliskova, and managed 2 breaks in the opening set alone.
The Czech’s 36 unforced errors were particularly damaging, given her opponent committed only 16, and while they both notched up 18 winners apiece, Linette won 71% on Pliskova’s second serve and came out on top of 50 of the 80 rallies under 5 shots.
“I think I did really well not to panic, and still stay in the rally, and go for the shots when I had the chance,” Linette said. “That was, I think, something I did the best.”
Pliskova was left to rue a big opening in the draw, but has done enough to climb back to World No 21.
Linette will meet 5th seed Aryna Sabalenka, who defeated Donna Vekic in her quarter-final, 6-3 6-2, in 1 hour 44 minutes.
It will be Linette’s fifth seeded player in a row, while Sabalenka has won both of their previous meetings in straight sets.
“I will just try what I’m doing this whole week,” said Linette, looking ahead to the semi-final. “I’m being very consistent, returning really well, and keeping my serves.
“I think she will be, you know, just a little bit more consistent version of being aggressive on every single shot.
“I will just need to serve really well again.
“I will try to do my best on the return, and I have been doing that pretty well the last two matches, especially when the opponent was kind of similar.”