MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Some professional tennis players are working to improve their serve or perhaps tweak their backhand slice. Perhaps a better comeback is a point. Or change their schema.
For 31-year-old Magda Leinette from Poland, she made her debut by beating No. 4 seed Caroline Garcia 7-6 (3), 6-4 at the Australian Open on Monday. A Grand Slam quarter-finalist, the job she did six months ago is targeting what she calls “emotional management”.
What does that mean? Learn how to deal with losses, yes, but also learn how to deal with “little mistakes here and there” along the way, No. 45 Linette explained.
“I never really dealt with them well. They moved on to the next point later, and the next point. It took me too long to get over them,” she says.
Of course, Linette added, she wants to improve the way she hits the ball, including, for example, placing the ball deeper in the pitch. But both she and her coach know that the most important thing is to “grow a little emotionally.”
Lynette next faces No. 30 seed Karolina Pliskova, a two-time Grand Slam runner-up who beat No. 23 seed Zhang Shuai 6-0, 6-4 on Monday. Pliskova reached the US Open finals in 2016 and 2021 and the semi-finals at Melbourne Park in 2019.
The other women remaining in the half are No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka and unseeded Donna Vekic, both of whom are in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open for the first time. Sabalenka improved to 8-0 in 2023 with a 7-5, 6-2 win over No. 12 Belinda Bencic, while Vekic — who has been helped by former player Pam Shriver, The latter has 21 Grand Slam titles in women’s doubles – ending 17-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova’s 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 win.
The other quarter-finals pit No. 3 Jessica Pegula against two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, and defending Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina against 2017 French Open champion Yeh. Lena Ostapenko.
“Without a doubt, today I felt like I couldn’t handle her power. I think that’s the biggest difference,” Bencic said of Sabalenka, who has won three of the past five majors. Made it to the semi-finals and never got farther. “However, I still don’t feel like it’s a very bad loss. For sure, she’s in pretty good shape right now.”
Same as Lynette.
Linette had never made it into the week until last week, when she beat Mayar Sherif in the first round — all the way out on the tight No. 17 — and then a pair of seeds, No. 16 Anett Kontaveit and No. 19 Ekaterina Alexandrova. 2 in any Grand Slam tournament.
Now, after defeating US Open semifinalist and WTA Finals champion Sergio Garcia, Lynette is not only past the third round, but also one victory away from the semifinals in her 30th Grand Slam appearance.
For years, Linette didn’t doubt or worry about whether she’d make that breakthrough, saying, “It was more about frustration: ‘Why can’t I do it?'”
On Monday, Garcia was never able to get the best out of her offensive style.
“She’s strong, she’s always focused on what she wants to do,” Garcia said of Linette. “She’s confident, probably (because) she’s had a good win the last couple of days and she’s worked hard for it … that’s something I can’t do.”
Linette has tried to be more aggressive from game to game, game to game, point to point, and it seems to be working well so far.
“I was too negative and hard on myself because I felt like I was demanding,” Linette said. “I’m 31 years old and I’m just doing it right.”
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