Melbourne | Yastremska qualifies for AO semi-final with win over Noskova

Dayana Yastremska, a qualifier from Ukraine, is looking to emulate Emma Raducanu’s run to the US Open title in 2021 by winning the Australian Open, and has made it as far as the semi-finals after beating Linda Noskova in the quarters on Wednesday.

I didn't have a huge tactic for today. The most important thing was for me is to keep the energy up, because I had a lot of matches here already and played a lot of sets. You know, you feel the tiredness, and it's normal. The main goal was just to keep the energy up and stay positive, even if I was doing sometimes stupid mistakes. Dayana Yastremska

It was Yastremska’s 8th straight match at Melbourne Park to earn her first Last 4 berth, which is the biggest Grand Slam result of her career.

The 23-year old’s journey has been tougher than Raducanu’s, who did not drop a set on her way to becoming the US Open champion, while Yastremska has endured 5 three-setters before dispatching Noskova, 6-3 6-4, in 78 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

“It’s nice to make a history,” she said, on becoming the first qualifier to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open since 1978. “It’s something new for me, and for my generation, because the last time it happened it was a long time ago. I wasn’t born yet. It’s nice. I’m really happy to be in my first semi-finals.”

She came through qualifying and defeated two major champions en route to the Last 8, using consistent aggression against Noskova, who shocked World No 1 Iga Swiatek in the 3rd-round.

Yastremska has been ranked as high as No 21 in the world, when she was 19-years old, and before she served a 6-month provisional suspension for a failed doping test, for which she was later deemed to bear no fault.

Several years later, the Ukrainian is now set to soar back into the Top 30 from her current ranking of 93, having struggled through the COVID-19 pandemic, and then enduring the trauma of escaping Ukraine as a refugee when Russia and Belarus invaded her homeland, all of which took her outside the Top 150 last year.

Forced to play qualifying, Yastremska took that momentum into the main-draw from her first match, dropping just 3 games against the reigning Wimbledon champion, Czech Marketa Vondrousova, and backed up that form in the 4th-round with a hard-fought win over Victoria Azarenka, the two-time AO champion from Belarus.

Across the net was an equally in-form Noskova who, at 19, has been one of the players to watch since last year, when she reached her first WTA final at a 500 event in Adelaide.

The young Czech proved her mettle on one of the biggest stages in tennis when she rallied from a set down to stun Swiatek, and then led Elina Svitolina 3-0 in the 4th-round when Ukraine’s former World No 3 was forced to retire due to a back injury.

Linda Noskova could not quite produce the form that upset World No 1 Iga Swiatek against Dayana Yastremska in the quarter-finals

© Phil Walter/Getty Images

In a contest of first-strike tennis, both Yastremska and Noskova looked to seize the initiative in the rallies as soon as possible, but it was the extra power of the Ukrainian that ultimately made the difference.

“I don’t really feel like I’m playing really good,” said Yastremska. “I just try to play like I can, and take the maximum from myself. Everything I have left is just fighting.”

While the Czech teenager might have been the fresher of the two coming into the contest, she often was pushed onto the back foot as Yastremska picked up where she had left off against Azarenka, striking the ball with authority to turn around an early break deficit to win 5 of the opening set’s final 6 games.

“I didn’t have a huge tactic for today,” Yastremska admitted later. “The most important thing was for me is to keep the energy up, because I had a lot of matches here already and played a lot of sets.

“You know, you feel the tiredness, and it’s normal. The main goal was just to keep the energy up and stay positive, even if I was doing sometimes stupid mistakes.

“I tried not to get angry on myself, because I understood why it’s happening.”

Noskova, though, was the first to break serve, as Yastremska made 3 unforced errors at 1-1, but the Czech could not sustain the momentum, and the Ukrainian broke back immediately for 2-2, winning the last 3 games of the first set, and later, capturing 4 of the last 5 games for the match.

The second set went with serve until the 6th game, when Yastremska opened up a 15-40 lead, and shook off the loss of 2 break chances to convert a 3rd, and, 2 games later, she was serving for the match.

An ace brought her within 2 points of victory, and 2 more unreturned serves booked her place in the semi-finals in Melbourne for the first time.

Yastremska finished with a near-even 19 winners to 23 unforced errors, and won just under 80% of points behind her first serve, while Noskova, by contrast, managed just 6 winners to her 21 miscues.

Dayana Yastremska (L) prevailed over Linda Noskova (R) to become only the second Ukrainian to make it to the AO semi-finals

© Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP via Getty Images

Born in Odesa, Ukraine, on 15 May, 2000, Yastremka’s father, Alexander, was a volleyball player and a politician, while her mother, Marina, is her mental coach.

She has a younger sister, Ivanna, and started playing tennis at the age of 5, introduced by her grandfather, Ivan.

Showing great talent and potential as a junior, she reached the finals of the 12 and under Junior Orange Bowl in 2012, and made the junior singles final at Wimbledon in 2016, while also winning 2 ITF junior titles in singles and one in doubles.

Yastremska turned professional in 2015 and steadily climbed up the rankings with victories on the ITF Circuit, winning her first WTA title at the Hong Kong Open in 2018, which she followed up with two more WTA titles in 2019, at the Hua Hin Championships and the Internationaux de Strasbourg.

She also reached the 4th-round of Wimbledon, her best Grand Slam performance at the time, and broke into the Top 30 in 2019, while she reached her career-high ranking of No 21 in January 2020.

She also reached her first Premier final at the Adelaide International, beating Aryna Sabalenka on the way, where she lost to World No 1 Ash Barty.

Her career, however, faced a major setback in 2021, when she was provisionally suspended for doping after testing positive for mesterolone, a banned substance.

Yastremska denied any wrong-doing and appealed the decision, claiming that the positive result was due to cross-contamination, and, after a long legal battle, she was cleared of the charge in June 2021 and allowed to resume playing on tour.

She made her come-back at the Hamburg Open, where she reached the quarter-finals, and also reached the final of the WTA 250 event in Prague, where she lost to Tereza Martincova.

Now the 5th Ukrainian woman to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final, Ystremska is the second after Svitolina to play in a semi-final when she faces either No 12 seed Zheng Qinwen from China or Russia’s Anna Kalinskaya on Thursday evening for the right to play for the Australian Open title on Saturday.

Qualifier Dayana Yastremska has been ranked as high as No 21 in the world and will be back in the Top 30 after the Australian Open

© Julian Finney/Getty Images



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