ADELAIDE, Australia – It’s been a very quick – but very quiet – rise to the top of the women’s game for 18-year-old Czech Linda Noskova.
And given her low-key, even-keeled personality, that’s probably exactly the way she likes it.
The teen has done nothing but impress this week in Adelaide, from saving a match point in her first-round qualifying match to defeating No. 1 seed Ons Jabeur in three sets Saturday night.
She’ll meet No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalanka in Sunday’s final. And she’ll be the youngest since Caroline Wozniacki back in 2008 to play in a 500-level final (called a Premier back then … or something).
At No. 102 in a very tough field (her career high is No. 87, achieved just before last year’s US Open), Noskova was unseeded in the qualifying last weekend.
She survived a match point in a 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7) win over Anna Kalinskaya in the first round, then defeated No. 3 seed Anastasia Potapova 6-3, 6-2 to make the main draw.
Noskova looked on her way out in the first round against No. 3 seed Daria Kasatkina, when she was up a set and serving for the match when she flinched, and lost the second set in a tiebreak 7-2.
There certainly some (slightly) despairing looks to coach Tomáš Krupa as that was happening. But unlike many players – not just teens, any age – it didn’t go downhill from there. She turned the page on the disappointment and won the third set 6-3.
Then she defeated American Claire Liu fairly routinely.
In the quarterfinals against the former Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka, the first two sets went a bit the same way as they did against Kasatkina. She had a shot at winning in two in the second-set tiebreak, but lost it 7-3.
And then, she managed to squeak through in the deciding tiebreak, 8-6 to reach the match against Jabeur. She won two fewer points, but won the match.
Solid fundamentals, with an aggressive streak
You can see by the photo below of the similarly-aged Erika Andreeva that Noskova was always solidly-built, well constructed (hopefully) to withstand the rigors of the pro tour.
She has a solid serve, a second serve that’s far from a weakness, a cheeky forehand cross-court drop shot – and, above all, a premium backhand.
Her backhand down the line may well prove to be her money shot, as it was in the past for players like Martina Hingis and Jelena Jankovic.
But she considers her competitive calm her biggest weapon.
Here’s what she had to say after the win over Jabeur.
And there’s no doubt she looks mature far beyond her 18 years on the court.
Her challenge in the next few days will be that she is still four out of the main draw at the Australian Open, with that ranking of No. 102.
They’re making the qualifying draw Sunday afternoon, with play to begin Monday morning. And it feels unlikely that four players in the main draw will pull out (as a courtesy) before the qualifying begins – even though that’s not really their problem.
So after playing seven matches this week in the heat, and at a high level, she may not even have a day of rest before she tries to qualify for her first Australian Open main draw.
Noskova a junior Roland Garros champ
In 2021, at 16, she was a junior Roland Garros champion and ranked No. 655 on the WTA Tour.
In about a year and a half, she has lopped some 600 spots off that number.
She’s not part of the “Nike crew” of up-and-comers, as she wears clothing provided by her racquet sponsor, which is a “less-prestigious” type of deal.
Noskova has an experienced coach in 50-year-old Krupa, who played professionally but is more known for having worked with a lot of fine Czech players including Tomas Berdych, Radek Stepanek, Jiri Vesely, Karolina Pliskova and Barbora Strycova.
There’s no big entourage, just she and Krupa, who live in the same town and practice at a club about 10 kilometres from their homes.
She doesn’t appear to have gone the big-name academy route, as did her partner in a Les Petits As doubles title in 2018 – another fine young Czech named Linda (Fruhvirtova).
But she has made the biggest early move.
Noskova already is at No. 56 in the live rankings, and could move to No. 43 if she beats Sabalenka on Sunday.
Unfortunately, too late for an Australian Open main draw spot.
Frankly, they really should have saved a wild card for her – especially as young Aussie Taylah Preston pulled out injured late. But that not how Tennis Australia rolls.