Yastremska, who came through qualifying to reach the main draw in Melbourne, defeated Belarus’ two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka 7-6(8-6) 6-4 on Monday and will now appear in her first quarterfinal at a grand slam.
It’s a landmark moment in the 23-year-old’s career as she continues to wrestle with the emotions of pursuing a tennis career during Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
While playing in Brisbane ahead of the Australian Open, Yastremska, who is from the southern city of Odesa, revealed that her grandmother’s house had recently been struck by rocket fire.
“The war, of course, has affected us a lot because you cannot go home when you wanted like it was before,” she told reporters after defeating Azarenka.
“You always read the news. You always see the videos … It’s tough emotionally to play, but the worst thing is you feel like you were already accepting this, what is happening. And people are starting to forget about what is going on.”
Yastremska will next face another player who has enjoyed an unlikely run to the quarterfinals – the Czech Republic’s Linda Nosková – after coming through a match of seesawing fortunes against Azarenka.
She took a 3-1 lead in the first set before Azarenka hit back immediately by winning four games in a row, and the former world No. 1 seemed likely to wrap up the opening set when she was serving at 5-4, then also when she had two set points at 6-5.
Yastremska, however, managed to force a tie-break and triumphed thanks to two excellent forehand winners.
The second set was also close, although now it was Azarenka who took an early lead before Yastremska hit back by winning five straight games, securing her second break with an improvised and unconventional backhand into the corner.
There was no tie break this time as the world No. 93 held serve and claimed the win with another big forehand beyond the reach of Azarenka. She ended the match with 38 winners, 16 of them coming on the forehand side.
Asked about what people back in Ukraine will make of her victory, Yastremska said: “I think they’re going to be really proud of me. I’m sure they’re going to write and ask even themselves where she’s been with this kind of game the last three years. I think it’s as well pretty unexpected for them.”
Yastremska is the first qualifier to reach the final eight of a grand slam since Emma Raducanu at the 2021 US Open – a tournament the British star famously went on to win – and is the second Ukrainian still in the women’s draw alongside Marta Kostyuk.
The top seed in qualifying, she has defeated two former grand slam winners – Wimbledon champion Markéta Vondroušová and now Azarenka – on her way to the final eight. This is her best-ever run at a major having played in one previous fourth-round match at Wimbledon in 2019.
Yastremska won three WTA Tour titles as a teenager and climbed to No. 21 in the rankings in January 2020, but she had a career setback the following year when she was handed a provisional anti-doping suspension, only to be cleared of any wrongdoing five months later.
She is yet to add to the three titles she won as a teenager, reaching two finals since then, but will soon climb up the rankings after her strong run at the Australian Open.
The unpredictable nature of the women’s competition at this year’s tournament means there are currently three unseeded players in the top half of the draw. China’s Zheng Qinwen, seeded 12th, completed the quarterfinal lineup by defeating France’s Océane Dodin on Monday.
For Yastremska, the likelihood of reaching a first grand slam final – improbable when she entered qualifying nearly two weeks ago – has swung sharply in her favor.
Alcaraz breezes through
Elsewhere, the men’s quarterfinal draw at the Australian Open is set after two-time grand slam champion Carlos Alcaraz defeated Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanović in straight sets, 6-4 6-4 6-0.
The Spaniard will contest his first quarterfinal in Melbourne when he takes on Alexander Zverev – a matchup the German has won on four previous occasions to Alcaraz’s three.
Zverev needed five sets and a super tie-break to get past Britain’s Cameron Norris in his fourth-round match, winning 7-5 3-6 6-3 4-6 7-6(10-3) in four hours and five minutes.
Russian third seed Daniil Medvedev and Polish ninth seed Hubert Hurkacz complete the bottom half of the men’s quarterfinal draw after they both won on Monday – Medvedev against the unseeded Nuno Borges and Hurkacz against wildcard Arthur Cazaux.
According to Opta, this is the first time in the Open Era that the top six seeds have all reached the quarterfinals of the men’s singles competition at the Australian Open.
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