Vekic breaks Aus Open final eight drought

AFTER a couple of lean years, Croatian Donna Vekic booked her spot in the 2023 Australian Open quarterfinals after defeating Linda Fruhvirtova in their fourth round clash yesterday. Vekic needed three sets and more than two hours to shake off the 17-year-old, eventually winning 6-2 1-6 6-3.

In an entertaining contest, both players served seven aces, though Vekic produced half the double faults (five to 11). Possessing a truckload of power for her opponent, Vekic hit 20 more winners (42-22) and 20 more unforced errors (40-20) during the clash.

“I didn’t really feel like I had much control in that second set to be honest,” Vekic said post-match. “I knew that I had to keep fighting, and hoping and believing that I will win.”

Vekic had a 9-10 record at Melbourne Park coming into 2023, and though she has been able to qualify for all 11 main draw appearances – be it automatic or through qualifying – the Croatian had previously never made it past a fourth round. That came in 2021, which backed off a couple of strong years where she largely resided in the Top 30.

Last year, Vekic was knocked out in the opening round of the season, but has successfully navigated the first week at Melbourne Park in 2023, now through to the quarterfinals. She has one previous quarterfinal at a Grand Slam, the 2019 US Open.

‘It feels pretty good I would say. It’s been not easy the last couple of years for me but I’m really thankful to have my team here with me and not just my team here, but everyone at home, I know that’s watching and supporting and not getting a lot of sleep the last couple of days,” Vekic said.

The world number 64 has won three career WTA Tour titles, and is still unbeaten in the 2023 season, winning a trio of matches for Croatia in the United Cup. After just battling past Oksana Selekhmeteva in the opening round, Vekic has found the going far easier, including an upset win over 18th seed Liudmila Samsonova in the second round.

Her task is about to get significantly tougher however, with the Croatian taking on fifth seed Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, who took down Vekic’s close friend Belinda Bencic in the Round of 16.

“Well my first thought is that I’m really sad that it’s not Belinda,” Vekic said. “We were talking a lot and we said let’s hope we both win and then have a great match in the quarters, but I’m sure she’ll give me some tips.”

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