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Women's Day 10 preview: Shooting for the final four

  • Ravi Ubha

A seed in her fourth Melbourne Park quarterfinal in the past six years meeting a player who, on Wednesday, will step out in the final eight of a major for the first time. 

And a form player looking for a second major semifinal run in succession who must overcome an opponent who has beaten her in all but one of their six previous meetings. 

MORE: Day 10 schedule of play

Karolina Pliskova, Magda Linette, Aryna Sabalenka and Donna Vekic take to Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday vying for the final two places in the AO 2023 semifinal field. 

Here's what to expect.

Karolina Pliskova [30] v Magda Linette

Head to head: 7-2

One Pole features in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open – but probably not the one everyone thought. 

Instead of three-time Grand Slam winner Iga Swiatek, it is Magda Linette. 

Call her a seed slayer at Melbourne Park, too. 

Linette has cast aside seed after seed in Melbourne (Getty Images)

In successive rounds, Linette ousted Anett Kontaveit, Ekaterina Alexandrova and WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia. Up next for the 30-year-old is only a former world No.1, Karolina Pliskova. 

MORE: AO 2023 women's singles draw

Wednesday's debut appearance in the last eight of a major comes on Linette's 30th visit to the main draw, which begs the question: why now? 

Linette – a stellar mover with a punchy backhand who can also hit big serves – cited several factors. 

Atop the list is coping better when things don't go her way in matches. 

"We worked a lot actually about my emotional management," she said. "I think dealing with some kind of losses, but not necessarily match losses, just even throughout the match, losses, like small mistakes here and there.

"I think I've never really dealt with them very well. They carried over later on for the next point, then another one. It was taking me just too long to get over them.

"This approach of really trying to look a little bit different, grow up a little bit emotionally, like that was a big thing for us as a team. 

Wins over Ash Barty via retirement and Ons Jabeur at the French Open since 2021 bolstered her belief, as did having success in team events the Billie Jean King Cup and United Cup. 

In the former, Linette beat past US Open finalists Pliskova and Madison Keys. 

She collected three more wins at the United Cup before AO 23, with Swiatek a teammate and former top-10 regular Agnieszka Radwanska her captain. 

Radwanska watched Linette's win over Garcia from the player box, as did the Poznan native's coach, Mark Gellard. 

"I think just the whole team vibe and having extra support was helpful just to be there and stay calm and have a little bit more support right there at the bench," said the world No.45. 

"I think that's what kind of helped me to start the season a little bit better, as well."

Pliskova won six of her first seven matches against Linette, five coming in straight sets. 

Linette, however, led the big server 4-1 in the third set of their first-round contest at the US Open, before exiting in a topsy-turvy match tiebreak. 

She then defeated Pliskova at the Billie Jean King Cup indoors in Glasgow, 6-4 6-1. 

"I think she really improved her game a lot," said the Czech, a straight-sets winner over Zhang Shuai in the fourth round. 

"She started to believe. Of course, you can see that. She's a fighter, playing really good game from the baseline. I just can't give her the time and that game what she wants to play."

Pliskova's 2022 was completely disrupted by a broken arm sustained in the off-season and she couldn't compete in Melbourne. 

Knocked out in the second round at both the French Open and Wimbledon – as the defending finalist – she rebounded by making the quarterfinals at the US Open. 

"Amazing just to be here because I was really, really sad last year that I missed especially this part of the season," said the 30th seed. "I felt like the second part of the year started to be much better. 

"It just took me some while because I also started pretty much still with the pain."

Pliskova is one win away from reprising her run to the AO 2019 semis (Getty Images)

If Pliskova's last quarterfinal in Melbourne in 2019 is any indication – overturning a 5-1 third-set deficit and saving four match points against Serena Williams – expect plenty of drama. 

Aryna Sabalenka [5] v Donna Vekic 

Head to head: 1-5

There hasn't been too much drama in Aryna Sabalenka's wins during AO 23 – and that's just how she wants it. 

The roller coasters have been replaced by carousels. Round and round, or round by round in tennis terms, Sabalenka has looked assured. Four matches, zero sets lost. 

She rallied from a break deficit in the first set on the way to defeating Olympic champion Belinda Bencic on Monday. 

A tally of 32 winners lifted her total count to 125 coupled with a mere 76 unforced errors. Last year in her four matches, Sabalenka hit 56 double faults alone. Her first-serve percentage points won sits third at 79. 

Sabalenka revealed last August that she began working with a biomechanic coach to help her serve, and feels the results have followed. 

"I was in that moment open for whatever. I was just like, 'Please, someone help me to fix this (expletive) serve,'" the fifth seed said with a smile. "I'm sorry for swearing, but this is how it was. This is the true feeling.

"Yeah, I learnt a lot, a lot new stuff about my serve. Happy, happy he was able to help me."

The twice Grand Slam semifinalist meets an unseeded foe in Donna Vekic – but one who holds a 5-1 record against the 24-year-old and has competed in a Slam quarterfinal in the past. 

Vekic twice thought about quitting tennis while recovering from 2021 knee surgery but carried on – winning events in Courmayeur in October 2021 and making a final in San Diego last October as a qualifier at about those times. 

It took Swiatek to beat her after Vekic ousted the impressive quartet of Sabalenka, Pliskova, Maria Sakkari and Danielle Collins. 

A former child prodigy like good friend Bencic, Vekic now believes she can go all the way at Grand Slams. 

"San Diego was a really important week for me, beating all those top players, ranking-wise," said Vekic, who made her Grand Slam debut as a 16-year-old 10 years ago. "It was a huge confidence boost. Gave me a lot of belief."

Vekic began working with Pam Shriver – the doubles standout and former No.3 in singles – in San Diego. The American joined Vekic and her other coach, Nikola Horvat, in Melbourne. 

She trended upwards but the world No.64 – a career high of 19 came in 2019 – almost didn't make it past the first round.  

Vekic needed a third-set tiebreak to down Oksana Selekhmeteva, benefiting from help from both Mother Nature and Horvat. 

"I won the first set, but if you asked me my name, I would have to look up on the scoreboard to check what's my name,' said Vekic. "I was completely blocked out there.

"I was losing 1-0 in the third set when it started to rain. I would definitely say the rain saved me a little bit because it gave me a couple of hours to regroup, cry my eyes out to Nick in the treatment room, just kind of release a little bit the pressure.

"From then on, I've been playing much better."