Australian tennis hero Casey Dellacqua has hailed Donna Vekic’s career resurgence after it threatened to be derailed by scandal. Vekic went into battle with Aryna Sabalenka Wednesday for a place in Australian Open semi-finals.
Things didn’t start particularly well for Vekic as she was broken in just the fourth game and surrendered an early 3-1 lead. After managing to get back on serve, Sabalenka broke again to go up 5-3 before serving out the first set 6-3.
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Sabalenka maintained her momentum in the second set after breaking Vekic straightaway for a 2-0 lead. Despite the scoreline, Vekic didn’t go down without a fight, forcing Sabalenka to bring out her best baseline tennis.
Vekic continued to struggle with his serve after dropping 12 double faults halfway through the second set. Sabalenka dropped one of her own service games but continued to break Vekic as she cruised to a 6-3, 6-2 victory.
Regardless of her loss to Sabalenka in the quarterfinals, Vekic can be immensely proud that she is still playing and making grand slam quarterfinals. The Croatian player’s career was thrown into chaos in 2015 when she was the unwitting victim of a distasteful sled by Nick Kyrgios to his then boyfriend Stan Wawrinka.
During a match at the Canadian Open, Kyrgios told Wawrinka: “(Thanasi) Kokkinakis beat your girlfriend. Sorry to tell you mate.” Kyrgios was widely condemned at the time and only recently got back on good terms with Wawrinka.
Vekic, 26, also endured a very public break-up with 37-year-old Wawrinka in 2019. Their relationship had initially raised eyebrows when Wawrinka left his wife for a woman 11 years his junior.
But despite the controversy and the scandal, Vekic has risen and let his tennis do the talking. Her run to the quarter-finals at the Australian Open marked her equal best performance at a grand slam, after she made the same stage at the 2019 US Open.
For Aussie great Dellacqua, her display at Melbourne Park has been nothing short of remarkable. “It feels like she’s been around for a long time,” Dellacqua said on Channel 9 Wednesday morning.
“I’m really happy that she’s doing some really great work off the court, I can tell, and it’s been rewarded on the court in terms of her play at the United Cup and now here at the Australian Open. She’s had a tough few years , we know she was obviously with Stan and it didn’t work out.
“But she’s just always had a great family, she’s got great parents around her, they’ve supported her unconditionally and you can tell that when you talk to her. She’s got a lot of life about her, Donna, compared to her maturity and where she’s come from and where she is now, so I think the best is yet to come for a player like Donna Vekic. I hope so anyway, because she’s a bit of a ‘fave’ of mine.”
Magda Linnette storms into the Australian Open semi-finals
Sabalenka will now play Magda Linette in the semi-finals after the Polish veteran continued her incredible run on Wednesday. The unseeded 30-year-old caused another huge upset, beat former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova 6-3 7-5.
Sabalenka has been in career-best form in Australia and will fancy her chances of reaching a maiden Australian Open final in 2023. She will face the Polish ace, who has never reached a slam semi-final but is in good form.
Linette had not progressed past the third round in 29 previous grand slam appearances. Five of the players she has beaten at Melbourne Park this year are ranked in the top 20.
“It’s so emotional. I can’t really believe it. Dreams do come true,” she said.
“We’ll continue though. I don’t want to get too excited because we’re still in the tournament, but I’m super grateful and happy.”
Linette said the key to her incredible run is staying calm on the course. “All my life I’ve had mistakes and losses very personally, so I had to disconnect those two things,” she said.
“It was really hard because a lot of times I felt like the misses, the mistakes, defined me. My coaches and I did a really good job and I’m really grateful to them because they really put up with a lot of crap.”
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