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“I felt the misses and the losses defining me” – Poland’s Magda Linette is learning to let go – and win – on the big stage

At the age of 30, Magda Linette’s Grand Slam breakthrough has come, thanks to perseverance and some important self-discovery.

Magda Linette 2023 Australian Open || (AI / Reuters / Panoramic) Magda Linette 2023 Australian Open || (AI / Reuters / Panoramic)

Upon entering the 2023 Australian Open, Poland’s Magda Linette had played 29 main draws at the majors, and lost in the first round on 17 of those occasions. Additionally, she had never been past the third round at any of them. Yes, she was talented – steadily rising even – but her performance over the last 10 days in Melbourne has gone far and above all expectations.

“It’s so emotional and I can’t really believe it, it’s really a dream come true,” Linette said on Wednesday after taking out Karolina Pliskova in straight sets, before adding: “We keep going, though.  I can’t get too excited because we are still in the tournament but I’m super grateful and happy.”

That last sentence, and Linette’s refusal to get overexcited about her current run, is the most telling. At 30 years of age, Linette has blossomed both on the court and off in recent years, and now it is paying off on one of the biggest stages in tennis.

A disconnection was necessary

One of the most important elements of Linette’s evolution has been her ability to separate the personal and the professional. She says she needed time to learn to not take losses too hard, and to accept the fact that making mistakes and losing matches is an unavoidable part of the sport.

“I felt a lot of times that the misses and the mistakes are defining me. So I mean, my coaches and me did a really great job, and I’m really thankful to them because they really put up with a lot of crap.”

— Magda Linette

“I think through all my life, I’ve been taking mistakes and losses very personally,” she said. “So to disconnect those two things, being a tennis player and a person was really difficult, because I felt a lot of times that the misses and the mistakes are defining me. So I mean, my coaches and me did a really great job, and I’m really thankful to them because they really put up with a lot of crap.”

Of course there is more to winning than accepting losing. Linette has fine-tuned her strong points, is hitting her backhand down the line with purpose, is supremely fit and plays the big points extremely well. It all adds up to an unforgettable moment.

Prior to Day 10 in Melbourne only two Polish women – Agnieszka Radwanska and Iga Swiatek – had ever reached a Grand Slam semifinal. Magda Linette rounds out the trio now, and she can – and should – be proud.

“I will never forget this,” she said. “You know, the first time ever, I’m breaking through some really difficult things for me. so, I mean, this will stay with me for life. so I’m really grateful grateful.” 

Older. More experienced – Linette is a quintessential late bloomer

Asked what has made it possible for her to enjoy such a massive breakthrough, Linette chalked it up to maturity.

“A lot has changed for me personally,” she said. “So I think a lot has to do with a little bit of my personal life that I’ve become a little bit more independent. That’s the first thing.

Second, I think I’m looking at things a little bit different. I’m older. I’m more experienced, and I just calm down a bit. Emotionally I’m maybe finally growing up a little bit. When I’m down, I’m not that dramatic about it. And I can still keep fighting against my opponent, not only myself.”

Pliskova on Linette – “Belief and confidence”

Her victim in today’s quarter-final match saw it the same way. Karolina Pliskova told reporters that what is different between the Magda Linette of today and the Magda Linette of year’s past is simply confidence.

“Of course she improves, but I think the main thing with some of these players, which takes a while for them to get up, I don’t think you can improve that much of the level of tennis what you play,” Pliskova said. “Like you don’t improve that much your forehand. I think it’s just a belief and the confidence, which obviously she has now.”

Iga Swiatek hasn’t overshadowed – she has inspired

Also asked about the effect that Iga Swiatek’s unprecedented success has had on her game, Linette expressed gratitude for the fact that Swiatek has opened doors and brought more attention to Polish tennis.

“I think she has done so much for tennis in Poland, and by just coincidence that is helping me as well because just people are watching more,” she said. “They are more interested. I think, you know, more people are coming for my matches as well because of it.”

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