Magda Linette: Unseeded player credits calm as her weapon at Australian Open




CNN

Fans and pundits alike were expecting a Polish player to make it to this year’s Australian Open semi-final – but maybe not unseeded.

Magda Linette – not women’s world number 1 Iga Światek – finds herself Poland’s only remaining representative in this year’s singles tournament and will face Aryna Sabalenka in the semi-finals on Thursday after ousting former world number 1 Karolina Plísková 6 -3 7-5.

Światek was the tournament favorite after reaching the semi-finals last year and winning eight titles in 2022, including two Grand Slams, but was knocked out by 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina on Sunday.

Ranked 45th, with a career high of 33rd, the right-hander Linette had never progressed beyond the third round of a Grand Slam, but became the ninth oldest woman in the Open Era to reach her first quarter Grand Slam finals.

Having never made it past the round of 16 in 29 major starts, she went to the game against Plísková defeating three seeds – No. 16 Anett Kontaveit, No. 19 Ekaterina Alexandrova and No. 4 Caroline Garcia. – in Succession.

“I will never forget this… it will stay with me for life,” Linette, 30, said after her quarter-final win over Plísková on Wednesday.

“I’m pretty calm, surprisingly, it helped me last time and I think it’s a good way for the next one as well,” Linette later told reporters.

Linette credits her wins so far to staying calm and composed, even in the face of adversity or an aggressive opponent.

“I had so much experience on these big courts before because almost every Grand Slam I found myself on a big court, one way or another,” she explained.

“I’ve faced so many great players before – it’s not really new to me, it’s just another game,” added Linette, who is the daughter of a tennis coach.

Linette started playing tennis at the age of five and represented Poland at the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympics. But it wasn’t until 2015 that she broke into the top 100.

She has enjoyed success against big names, beating top seed Ashleigh Barty at Roland Garros in 2021 and reaching the doubles semi-finals alongside Bernarda Pera.

Although she ultimately lost to Martina Trevisan, she knocked out No. 2 seed Ons Jabeur in the first round of French Open last year.

“When I started beating players like Ash Barty and then Ons, it gave me an extra kick which really showed me that I can really go far in these tournaments. I think it was more frustrating than I wouldn’t wonder or worry about. I think it was just more frustration why I can’t do it,” she said, according to the WTA.

Linette’s plans to compete at the 2021 Australian Open tragically came to a halt after noticing a knee injury just a day before her flight.

“It was honestly the most painful experience of my life,” Linette said Wednesday. “I had meniscus surgery… but because it was a bit tricky where the injury was, no one could really see what was going on.

“Literally, a day before my flight, the pain and uncomfortable feeling I had came back with added force,” Linette said, adding that she couldn’t even walk, let alone think about the tournament.

She added that before the tournament she “listened to everyone complaining about the isolation, and I was so jealous that they had to do it because I really wanted to be there”.

This injury would go undiagnosed for 11 weeks and see her out of action for five months. But two years later, she attributes that adversity to her current composure.

“Why? Because I think it couldn’t be really worse, right? Honestly, I didn’t play for five months, I was losing my ranking and I was also losing points in times of pandemic,” said Linette, adding at the time that she feared dropping out of the top 100.

“In a way, I felt kind of okay with the fact that I might be done soon, and I think that gave me some space to build everything from the beginning.”

His injury, coupled with “big changes” in his personal life, “definitely changed a lot for me”, she added.

“I became a little calmer. I’ve changed a lot in my life and made some tough decisions, and I think I’m rewarded for that now.

However, Linette’s poise in tough times hasn’t always been there – she broke down in tears during a tough game in Tampico, Mexico last October.

“In the first set I was playing against a girl and she was giving me a lot of trouble. I completely burst into tears in the first set. My coaches were really surprised by that,” she said.

“I felt like I threw all that anger out of me. That was the last time I really lost it. Since then, I’ve really controlled it better.

While Sabalenka is 2-0 career record against the unseeded Pole, given her form this tournament, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Linette go further in their semi-final and make a storybook qualifier. in Melbourne for one of the greatest prizes in tennis.

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