MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA— Almost every day since the beginning of the tournament, Yonex players have turned Rod Laver Arena into their own theater of dreams. Linda Noskova (CZE) and Dayana Yastremska (UKR) are two of said dreamers, both reaching a major quarterfinal for the first time.
Where they faced off against one another.
Noskova is 19 years old, the world No. 50th and a rising star in the sport. Yastremska is 23, a former "child prodigy" who had to make her way through qualifying to advance to the main draw.
But who emerged with such an opportunity on the line? Let’s find out.
Yastremska keeps Cinderella run alive
Melbourne is said to have "four seasons in one day,” with a wide range of temperatures and conditions. But the heat was on when the two unexpected quarterfinalists met on Wednesday, a shot at a major semifinal on the line.
And that heat probably gave Yastremska a bit of an edge.
"It was really hot today compared to other days, I think. The balls were flying a lot. She was playing really fast, as well." Noskova said of the clash when asked after.
Both players are hard hitters, but it is Yastremska who hits one of the flattest, hardest balls on the women’s tour. Her strokes cut through the court on any day, but the 30C degree hot air created even more zip – and bouncier conditions.
Nevertheless, it was Noskova who broke first and took the lead in set one. But Yastremska would break back immediately in the next game, with Noskova having only played a trio of games in the fourth round (Elina Svitolina retired) after upsetting Iga Swiatek two days earlier.
"I kind of felt like I wasn't 100% on court today, maybe because of the fact I didn't really play the previous match," she explained. "I didn't manage to put myself and my head into the match from the beginning."
Yastremska, meanwhile, was taking the approach that has worked for her the entire tournament: Big strokes, aim for winners and follow the ball forward. She hit 19 winners to Noskova’s six.
"I will say I didn't have a huge tactic for today,” she admitted. “The most important thing was for me to keep the energy up, because I had a lot of matches here already and played a lot of sets."
Yastremska would take the first set in a comeback and never loosened up her grip on the match after, her 6-3, 6-4 victory coming in just one hour and 18 minutes.
By making it to the semifinals, Yastremska became the first woman's singles qualifier to reach the semifinals at the Australian Open since 1978, when Australian Christine Matison made it that far.
“It’s nice to make history,” said Yastremska, who has now won eight matches this year at Melbourne Park. “It's something new for me and for my generation. The last time it happened it was a long time ago... I wasn't born yet."
Wheelchair Tennis: Tokito Oda, Diede de Groot progress with wins
More history is looking to be made in the wheelchair event, with Diede de Groot (NED) having won 13 consecutive Grand Slam titles in singles, dating back to the 2020 US Open
After an opening round win, de Groot showed her steely resolve by bouncing back from a first set loss, overcoming Dutch countrywoman Aniek Van Koot, 6-3, 6-1, 6-0.
Tokito Oda (JPN), who became the youngest ever World No. 1 at 17 years and 1 month after winning Roland Garros last year, is aiming for his third major title at the Australian Open, where he finished runner-up in 2023. In the first round, he defeated fellow Japanese Takuya Miki in 1 hour and 13 minutes, then faced Stephane Houdet, the man he had lost to in the first round of last year's US Open.
"When I woke up this morning and took my first steps out of bed, I had a feeling that I was going to win today," said Oda after the win, which put him into the semifinals.
Oda, still a teen, is not only aiming for an AO title but for prolonged success in wheelchair tennis: “I have a very good mentality and I can aim for the top," he said.
Oda took out British lefty Gordon Reid 7-6(4), 7-5 to earn his spot in the final, where he’ll meet top seed and two-time defending champion Alfie Hewett.