Sports, Tennis

Australian Open semi-finalist Yastremska objective to show pride

Published : 24 Jan 2024 08:53 PM

Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska said her mission at the Australian Open was to show pride in her war-torn home after Wednesday becoming just the second women's qualifier in the Open Era to reach the semi-finals in Melbourne.

In searing conditions on Rod Laver Arena, the world number 93 broke three times to beat unseeded Czech Linda Noskova 6-3, 6-4 in 78 minutes.

It set up a last-four clash against unseeded Russian Anna Kalinskaya or Chinese 12th seed Zheng Qinwen.

Yastremska is the first women's qualifier to reach the last four at the season-opening Grand Slam since Australia's Christine Matison in 1978.

"It's nice to make history, because at that time I wasn't even born," she said.

The 23-year-old wrote a message of support for Ukrainian fighters involved in the war against Russia on a TV camera lens after her win.

"I'm very proud of them," she said. "They really deserve huge respect. I always try to write something for Ukraine, about Ukraine.

"I think it's my mission here. If I do well, I can get -- tough to express. I'm just trying to give the signal to Ukraine that I'm really proud of it."

Yastremska faced a tough battle to reach the main draw at Melbourne Park, being taken the distance in all three of her qualifying matches.

But she moved up a gear when the season-opening Grand Slam started, hammering Wimbledon champion and seventh seed Marketa Vondrousova in the first round and eliminating two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka in the fourth round.

Noskova, 19, was the first to make a move in their quarter-final, breaking in the third game, only for her opponent to hit straight back to level at 2-2.

Another break in the eighth game for Yastremska gave her the chance to serve out for the set and she made no mistake.

The key moment in the second set came in the seventh game when Yastremska thundered a backhand winner past 50th-ranked Noskova to break and she went on to wrap up victory with minimum fuss.

Yastremska, who has won three WTA singles titles, said she had not thought about how far she could go in Melbourne when she started the qualifying campaign.

"I was working on some things that is a little bit, like, personal, you know," she said. "It was more associating with my head and with the way I feel on court.

"I wasn't really putting the goal, you know, to go quarters, fourth round, semis or whatever. I was just trying to enjoy playing here."

Yastremska's run in Melbourne will send her soaring up the rankings.

She reached a career-high 21 in January 2020, a year before she was suspended for a failed dope test.

But that ban was subsequently lifted after an independent tribunal accepted that her positive test was the result of contamination.

Yastremska said she had a wide array of interests outside tennis, including fashion and music.

"In February I hope that one new song will come out," she said. "It's not just mine. It's going be three of us, three different countries, that we, you know, got together and we made a nice song.

"I'm not going to talk much about it. You're going to hear it soon, I hope."