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Report: Linette topples Garcia to continue dream run

  • Gill Tan

Women's singles fourth round

Magda Linette's jaw dropped as she punched her fists in the air to celebrate the finest win of her career.

The 30-year-old stunned fourth seed Caroline Garcia 7-6(3) 6-4 to cement a place in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

MORE: All the scores from AO 2023

DRAW: Australian Open 2023 women's singles

The unseeded Pole took one hour and 57 minutes to seal the upset on Rod Laver Arena, extending her dream Australian Open 2023 run.

"I don't really believe it," said a euphoric Linette. "I'm speechless."

The build-up

Nearly six years have passed since the only prior clash between Garcia and Linette, which the Frenchwoman won in straight sets.

Going into the match, Garcia knew her foe could be "dangerous."

"I will have to be aggressive...I will have to be really focus[ed on] myself and be ready for what comes, and fight," said the 29-year-old.

Her opponent, the Polish world No.45, was in uncharted territory, having never advanced past the third round of a major in 29 attempts.

After consecutive wins over 16th seed Anett Kontaveit and 19th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova this fortnight, Linette declared herself ready for the "difficult" challenge ahead.

[There] will be no rhythm and I'll really need to stay focused and keep swinging, because [if there's] any hesitation, she'll punish," Linette said.

Story of the match 

Attacking from the get-go, Garcia raced to a 3-0 lead, courtesy of a double break before the 30-year-old Linette reeled one back.

Despite Garcia's aggressive decision to return the Pole's first and second serves from inside the baseline, Linette kept herself in rallies with deep groundstrokes.

Still, the powerful fourth seed maintained the upper hand until the tenth game.

Serving for the opening set at 5-4, Garcia saved break point with a magnificent backhand winner before misfiring from her backhand wing to concede the game.

A poorly-timed double fault from the Frenchwoman gave her rival an advantage in the tiebreak. Moments later, Linette snatched the set with a blistering forehand that drew an error from Garcia at the net.

A host of Polish fans erupted in applause, including compatriot and two-time AO semifinalist Agnieszka Radwańska, who was watching from Linette's box.

Showered by chants of "Allez Ca-ro!", Garcia saved a break point early in the second set. But the world No.4's returns began to lose their sting, enabling Linette to hold to love in a game spanning just 96 seconds.

With steely determination, Garcia saved three break points in a marathon seventh game, but was unable to adjust to the intense, relentless pressure from Linette. Facing break point at 4-4, Garcia flung a forehand wide, gifting Linette the chance to serve for the match.

Oozing with conviction on match point, the Pole placed a serve down the T, prompting a long forehand from Garcia.

Magda Linette and Caroline Garcia (Getty Images)

"I don't want to say I didn't expect it, because coming on the court I was confident in how I'm playing," said Linette.

"Obviously she's such an amazing opponent and such a tough one, especially on a big stage, so I knew it's going to be super tough and I'm just glad I stay[ed] composed throughout the whole first set," she added.

Key stats

Linette landed 75 per cent of her first serves, outpacing Garcia's underwhelming 49 per cent.

Importantly, she won 69 per cent of second serve points, far outweighing the Frenchwoman's 39 per cent success rate.

"I knew I had to serve pretty well, I was taking my time to make sure that the quality of my serve is there, otherwise she was really punishing me, especially you could see at the beginning," Linette said.

"Once I picked up a little bit on my serve, then I was just really focusing to stay really composed in my service games and just wait for my opportunities on her return games."

The Pole made just 14 unforced errors, less than half her opponent's 33. She won 61 per cent of points against Garcia's second serve, significantly more than Garcia's 31 per cent.

What this means for Linette

The victory improves Linette's record against top-5 players to 3-9.

Her first trip to the final eight in Melbourne Park pits her against 30th seed Karolina Pliskova, who blasted past 23rd seed Shuai Zhang 6-0 6-4, lifting her unbeaten streak against the Chinese right-hander to 8-0.

It's an intriguing showdown, as Linette has a 2-7 track record against the Czech former world No.1. The Pole earned a straight-sets victory during their most recent encounter at last year's Billie Jean King Cup Finals, and will be hoping their quarterfinal plays out with a similar scoreline. 

What’s next for Garcia?

Garcia fell in the first round last year, so the Frenchwoman's ranking is likely to climb, rather than dip. The 29-year-old will work on new game plans against opponents like Linette as she turns her attention to capturing hard court titles during the US sunshine swing.