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Azarenka latest victim of champion-toppling Yastremska

  • Gill Tan

Securing a maiden berth in a Grand Slam quarterfinal is a milestone that most players would revel in. But Dayana Yastremska is treating the achievement with a sense of inevitability.

“It’s not feeling like I'm in quarterfinals…has to be like so special, but [it] feels that I've just done, like, small part of what I had to do,” she said.

MORE: All the scores from Australian Open 2024

“I do feel like I didn't do much… it's just quarterfinals,” Yastremska said. “I had experience already in playing in a Grand Slam [but] I couldn't play great and [wasn’t] showing good results,” she added.

The Ukrainian reached a career-high ranking of world No.21 in January 2020 after making the round of 32 or better at every slam bar Roland-Garros in 2019. “Nothing changed, I just relaxed.”

To reach the last eight at Australian Open 2024 – no mean feat – the Ukrainian delivered a stunning 7-6(6) 6-4 upset over 18th seed Victoria Azarenka. 

By dispatching the two-time AO champion, Yastremska is just the second qualifier in the Open Era to defeat two former Grand Slam champions at a major since Jelena Dokic upset Martina Hingis and Mary Pierce at Wimbledon in 1999.

“Super happy,” said the 23-year-old, who clinched victory in 2 hours and 7 minutes.

Yastremska, the world No.93, is on a seed-toppling spree at Melbourne Park. Before taking out Azarenka, a two-time AO champion, the right-hander blasted past reigning Wimbledon champion and seventh seed Marketa Vondrousova and 27th seed Emma Navarro.

Monday’s spellbinding performance is a new core memory for Yastremska at Rod Laver Arena, where she won only three games against Serena Williams in 2019 during her only previous outing at Melbourne Park’s biggest stage.

“Today when I entered the court, I felt a little bit of nostalgia from the last match that I had with Serena,” Yastremska said, admitting that she felt a little uncomfortable in the early stages of the battle.  

“This time, I told myself that I have to win this match.”

That she did – by stepping up under pressure. She broke 34-year-old Azarenka as she served for the first set at 5-4 and again at 6-5, saving two set points to force a tiebreak. Azarenka served to close it out at 5-4, but was unravelled by a slew of fearless forehands from the Ukrainian, including one to capture the tiebreak. 



Another scorching forehand enabled Yastremska to save break point in the fourth game of the second set, preventing her from falling to a 0-4 deficit. After holding for 1-3, the emboldened youngster proceeded to break her accomplished rival twice, and never looked back.

“I imagined how I lost it maybe 25 times…I always felt like I’m running behind the train, you know?” she said with a laugh. “Maybe before 5-4, I accepted that I lost it already, and that helped me to continue to play, like I felt like I have another chance to win.”

“I just relaxed and I said ‘It's going to be like it's going to be’, just try to play each ball.”

Yastremska produced a total of 38 winners, many courtesy of her blistering groundstrokes, eclipsing Azarenka’s 16. She won 12 of 13 net points and strode between points with a steely resolve.

“I like to play aggressive,” Yastremska explained, adding that she was a little surprised in her ability to execute so many one-two punches in the second set, when she most needed them.  

“I just started boom, boom, boom, I don’t know how to explain it,” she laughed. “I saw my team was very confident in me like “Come on!”, so I was like, “Come on, let’s go!”

By coming through qualifying, the Ukrainian has won seven consecutive matches at Melbourne Park, making her the first qualifier to reach the AO women’s singles quarterfinals since Zhang Shuai in 2016 and the first qualifier to reach a major quarterfinal since Emma Raducanu at the 2021 US Open. 

“I am tired,” she admitted, adding that she’ll likely take a day off before Wednesday’s quarterfinal. 

In the final eight, Yastremska will face off for the first time against another AO quarterfinal debutante: Linda Noskova. The Czech 19-year-old progressed after 19th seed Elina Svitolina was forced to retire three games into their match after sustaining an injury.

“I think it's going to be a tough match but interesting match,” Yastremska said. “I need to be more focused on myself, because it's gonna be everything depending on myself.”