37th-ranked Mertens upsets Svitolina to reach semifinals


Associated Press

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

A year after opting out of qualifying for the Australian Open, Elise Mertens has reached the semifinals in her debut at the season-opening major.

Mertens upset fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-0 today to extend her winning streak to 10 matches and be the first woman through to the semifinals at Melbourne Park.

She’s the first Belgian since Kim Clijsters in 2012 to reach the semifinals in Australia.

She trains at Clijsters’ academy and knew the four-time major winner was watching on TV.

“Kim, thanks for watching, I knew you sent me a message before the match — don’t be too stressy,” Mertens said. “I’m trying to be in your footsteps this week.”

The No. 37-ranked Mertens successfully defended her Hobart International title — she decided last year to target that title instead of enter Open qualifying — two weeks ago, and has now won five matches at Melbourne Park.

Mertens dominated against Svitolina, who also entered her first quarterfinal in Australia on a nine-match winning roll after winning the Brisbane International two week ago.

Svitolina had won their only previous tour-level match, but had no answers on Rod Laver Arena.

Mertens raced out to a 5-2 in the first set before Svitolina got her only service break. The second set was no contest. Mertens won a 27-point rally while holding serve in the fourth game, then hit a backhand winner into the open corner to break Svitolina in the next game for a 5-0 lead.

Svitolina, who had a late finish to her fourth-round match that started just before midnight Sunday, framed an overhead and hit it over the baseline to give Mertens match point. Mertens duly finished it with a backhand crosscourt winner.

Mertens will play either second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki or Carla Suarez Navarro in the semis.

In other quarterfinals, top-seeded Rafael Nadal was playing No. 6 Marin Cilic and No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov faced Kyle Edmund.

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