Vekic out to avenge Bencic after ending teen’s Melbourne run

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Donna Vekic ended the fairytale Australian Open of Linda Fruhvirtova in the fourth round on Monday then eyed “revenge” against her last-eight opponent for knocking out her good friend Belinda Bencic.

The 64th-ranked Croatian overcame the 17-year-old Czech 6-2, 1-6, 6-3.

She now faces Aryna Sabalenka for a place in the semi-finals at Melbourne Park, after the Belarusian fifth seed ousted 12th seed Bencic in straight sets.

Sabalenka’s win upset the plans of Vekic, who had been looking forward to meeting Bencic of Switzerland in the quarter-finals.

“All of our matches have been really tough, so I’m sure the next one will be, as well,” she said of the last-eight clash with Sabalenka, who is emerging as a title favourite having not dropped a set in 2023.

“It’s a big match for us both. I’m sure she’ll be feeling it as well. I will try to take revenge for Belinda,” she smiled.

“Really sad it’s not Belinda. But I’m sure she’ll give me some tips.”

She may not need them. Vekic has played Sabalenka six times on the WTA Tour and holds a 5-1 advantage in match wins.

– ‘Keep fighting’ –

She beat Sabalenka in three sets when they last played, at San Diego in 2022.

She also knocked the Belarusian out of the Tokyo Olympics, coincidentally won by Bencic.

“I have a great head-to-head record with her. All of our matches have been really tough, so I’m sure the next one will be, as well,” said Vekic.

The last-16 match was uncharted territory for the Czech Republic’s Fruhvirtova, the youngest player left in the draw.

The teenager reached the second round of the 2022 US Open on her Grand Slam debut.

Her run in Melbourne was more proof of her rich promise, especially as she fought back from a set down to play her part in a terrifically entertaining 2hr 7min tussle at Margaret Court Arena.

“I didn’t really feel like I had much control in the second set to be honest, but I just had to keep fighting and hoping and believing┬áthat I will win,” said the 26-year-old Vekic.

Vekic extended her own win streak to seven matches, after being unbeaten in three matches at the United Cup.

Sabalenka’s stands at eight.

The 82nd-ranked Fruhvirtova showed all the fighting spirit and talent that has marked her as a future Grand Slam champion when she romped to the second set in 35 minutes.

But it was the more experienced Vekic who was able to go the distance, although she needed to battle the never-say-die Fruhvirtova for another 53 minutes to edge to victory.

“It definitely showed me that I can be in Grand Slam quarter-finals,” said Fruhvirtova.

“I think Vekic is in really good form right now, but it was about a few points. I was really good in the rallies. It was close, but it definitely showed me what to work on next and come back stronger.”

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