MELBOURNE, Australia—Some professional tennis players strive to improve their serve, say, or might tweak their mechanics on a backhand slice. Maybe better returning is a focus. Or altering their patterns.
For Magda Linette, a 31-year-old from Poland who reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal with a 7-6 (3), 6-4 victory over No. 4 seed Caroline Garcia at the Australian Open on Monday, the work she put in six months ago targeted what she termed her “emotional management.”
What did that entail? Learning how to handle losses, yes, but also “small mistakes here and there” over the course of a match, the 45th-ranked Linette explained.
“I’ve never really dealt with them very well. They carried over later on for next point, then another one. It was taking me just too long to get over them,” she said.
Of course, Linette added, she wanted to improve the way she hit groundstrokes, for example, including placing them deeper in the court. But what she and her coaches knew was most important was to “grow up a little bit emotionally.”
Next up for Linette is a matchup against No. 30 seed Karolina Pliskova, a two-time Grand Slam runner-up who defeated No. 23 Zhang Shuai 6-0, 6-4 on Monday. Pliskova reached the finals of the U.S. Open in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2021 and was a semifinalist at Melbourne Park in 2019.
The other women left on their half of the bracket both made it to the quarterfinals at the Australian Open for the first time, No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka and unseeded Donna Vekic. Sabalenka improved to 8-0 in 2023 with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over No. 12 Belinda Bencic, while Vekic—who has been receiving help from former player Pam Shriver, who owns 21 Grand Slam titles in women’s doubles—ended the run of 17-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova 6-2, 1-6, 6-3.
The other quarterfinals are No. 3 Jessica Pegula vs. two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, and reigning Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina vs. 2017 French Open champ Jelena Ostapenko.
“Definitely today I felt like I couldn’t handle her power. I think that was the biggest difference,” Bencic said about Sabalenka, who was a semifinalist at three of the past five major tournaments, never going further. “But still, I don’t feel like this is a really bad loss. She’s, for sure, very in-form right now.”
As is Linette.
Until last week, when she beat Mayar Sherif—all the way out on tiny Court 17—in the first round, then a pair of seeded players, No. 16 Anett Kontaveit and No. 19 Ekaterina Alexandrova, Linette had never made it to Week 2 at any Grand Slam tournament.
Now, by also topping US Open semifinalist and Women’s Tennis Association Finals champion Garcia, Linette is not only past the third round but a win away from the semifinals in her 30th major appearance.
Rather than wonder or worry over the years about whether she would ever make this sort of breakthrough, Linette said, “It was just more frustration: ‘Why can’t I do it?‘”
Garcia was never able to get her attacking style going at full gear Monday.
“She was solid, and she stayed focused on what she wanted to do,” Garcia said about Linette. “She was confident, probably (because of) the good wins she had the last couple of days, and she went for it … something I was not able to do.”
The more positive outlook Linette tries to carry from match to match, from set to set, from point to point, seems to be functioning quite well at the moment.
“I was just getting too negative and too harsh on myself ’cause I feel I’m quite demanding,” Linette said. “I’m 31 and I’m just getting it right.”
Image credits: AP