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One Huge Splash and Back to the Mean – Magda Linette’s 2023 Season

Magda Linette had some astonishing performances in team-based competitions towards the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023. At the Billie Jean King Cup Finals, she defeated Karolina Pliskova and Madison Keys. Two months later, she was a vital part of Poland’s United Cup semifinal campaign, going 3-1 on the No. 2 women’s singles. She turned it all into a milestone run at the Australian Open, a top 20 debut, and that was kind of it for the season.

The fortnight of her career

What a Melbourne performance it was for Linette. From the second round to the quarterfinals, Linette kept upsetting some dangerous opposition. All the matchups were relatively similar, with the powerful flat-hitters playing into the Pole’s strengths in terms of absorbing pace and redirecting off low balls. Her confidence was sky-high, which presented itself in just how often she was going in the more risky direction – down the line.

Linette ended up beating Mayar Sherif, Anett Kontaveit, Caroline Garcia, Ekaterina Alexandrova, and Karolina Pliskova, before running into the red-hot Aryna Sabalenka in the semifinals. But even that was a tight affair and certainly had similar matchup dynamics to the previous few rounds. The 31-year-old pushed the Belarusian really close in the opening set and was the only player to take her to a tie-break on the way to the Australian Open final. The points, the money, the recognition. This was the proudest moment of Linette’s career (so far) and everyone was eager to find out how she manages to follow it up.

Australian Open as the outlier

The short answer is simply no. If you look at her season from a pessimistic standpoint, it was quite disappointing after January. She only won consecutive matches at five other events, reaching the quarterfinals in Merida and the final in Guangzhou (but was demolished by Xiyu Wang 0-6 2-6 in the latter). The points from her Australian Open run guaranteed her high seedings and entry to every event on the tour, but Linette never really took advantage of these benefits to make sure that she’ll keep herself afloat after the Melbourne semifinal drops in January 2024. This now puts her in an uncomfortable position ahead of the new season.

Looking ahead

However, this might be the wrong way to look at it. If you subtract the 780 points for reaching the Australian Open final four from Linette’s ranking, she’d still land around World No. 50. That’s more or less how she had been performing the last few years (finished every season between 2019 and 2022 ranked in the 40-57 range). So it’s not that the Pole’s results got worse compared to the previous campaigns, it’s just that Melbourne stands out as a massive outlier. This season even had her find the usual peak in the Asian Swing and was perfectly in line with what she had generally gotten us used to.

While Linette didn’t keep up her Australian Open form, maybe it was just unfair to expect her to. After all, the points still granted her plenty of opportunities she wouldn’t have gotten otherwise like making the WTA Elite Trophy (even if that event contributed to the 7-match losing streak that ended her season). The plan for next year seems clear – save what you can from the Melbourne points but if you can’t manage that, you’re still back to the sort of ranking level you’ve spent most of your career at. It won’t be any tragedy if she loses round one in Australia and that’s the mindset she should be entering the tournament with.

Main Photo Credit: Eric Bolte – USA TODAY Sports


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