Opportunity knocks for unlikely Open quarter-finalists

Darren Walton |

Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska is full of confidence going into her maiden grand slam quarter-final.
Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska is full of confidence going into her maiden grand slam quarter-final.

Linda Noskova versus Dayana Yastremska is a match-up that few, if anyone, would have pencilled in as an Australian Open quarter-final.

But now that it has materialised, Wednesday’s meeting offers an opportunity of a lifetime for the two unseeded outsiders.

The two have never clashed previously and the winner will not only advance to a maiden grand slam semi-final, but also earn themselves a huge chance to make Saturday night’s title match at Melbourne Park.

The other quarter-final in the wide open top half of the draw features Chinese 12th seed Zheng Qinwen and Russian world No.75 Anna Kalinskaya.

The stakes are high.

To Yastremska, though, it’s just another tennis match.

The 23-year-old from Odessa says enduring the pain and hardship of war in her homeland has offered a fresh perspective and finally her game is flourishing again.

Dayana Yastremska.
Dayana Yastremska has dropped just one set in booking her quarter-final spot at Melbourne Park. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

Yastremska reached No.21 in the world in January, 2020 before Russia’s invasion on Ukraine turned her life upside down.

“The last three years a lot of things … were affected on me and because of that I couldn’t really play like I wanted,” she said.

“Plus I put a lot of pressure on myself as well.

“The war of course, it’s affected us well a lot because you cannot go home like you wanted, when you wanted like it was before.

“You always read the news. You always see the videos. For example, when I was in Brisbane, the rocket arrive on my grandmother house.

“It’s tough emotionally to play.”

On rankings, Yastremska is the underdog against world No.50 Noskova.

Not that she’s bothered.

Having taken out reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova in the opening round and then two-time Melbourne Park winner Victoria Azarenka on Monday, Yastremska is the first qualifier since Jelena Dokic in 1999 to beat two major champs at a slam.

Noskova is flying too.

The 19-year-old Czech ousted top seed Iga Swiatek in round three, then advanced to the quarters when one-time world No.3 Elina Svitolina retired with a back injury three games into their last-16 clash.

Linda Noskova.
Czech Linda Noskova has eliminated three seeds en route to the Australian Open last eight. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

“It’s the first grand slam of the year. It’s obviously very tough for everyone, especially for the seeded players to kind of stand their ground and play what they should,” Noskova said.

“But obviously on such a tournament, anything can happen.

“So yeah, we’ll see. There has been a lot of shocking results in men’s or women’s draws, so the players that are there right now are amazing.

“Dayana’s playing really great. She came through quallies and had some great matches here.

“We’ve never played each other. I don’t really know the way she plays, but I think she’s more like an aggressive tennis player.

“So I guess we won’t have a lot of rallies, but I will just have to be prepared for anything because I don’t really know her style. We’ll see what happens.”

LINDA NOSKOVA (CZE) v DAYANA YASTREMSKA (UKR) – first meeting

LINDA NOSKOVA

Age: 19

Ranking: 50

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $1,021,368

Career titles: 0

Grand slam titles: 0

Australian Open win-loss record: 4-0

Best Australian Open result: quarter-finalist 2024

DAYANA YASTREMSKA

Age: 23

Ranking: 93

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $3,255,888

Career titles: 3

Grand slam titles: 0

Australian Open win-loss record: 7-4

Best Australian Open result: quarter-finalist 2024

AAP