Melbourne - Unseeded Australian Open debutant Elise Mertens
blew away world number four Elina Svitolina in straight sets on Tuesday to reach a
first Grand Slam semi-final.
The Belgian world number 37, on a 10-match unbeaten streak
after winning in Hobart this month, knocked out the Ukrainian 6-4, 6-0 in 1hr
Mertens, who is yet to drop a set, is the first Belgian to
make the last four since Kim Clijsters in 2012.
"I'm lost for words. I don't know what to say. I just
gave my all today," she said. "I played my game today and tried to
Mertens, 22, trains with her coach and boyfriend Robbe
Ceyssens at the Kim Clijsters Academy in Belgium and has seen her world ranking
rise from 127 at the end of 2016.
She had never been beyond the third round of a Grand Slam
before in four appearances.
"He means a lot," she said of the importance of
"He's by my side all the time. Since we have been
together my game has only gone upward. All credit to him."
Mertens made all the initial running, returning aggressively
and mixing up her game cleverly, taking every opportunity to approach the net
and cut off Svitolina's passing avenues.
She broke the world number four in the third game and then
again for a 5-2 lead.
Serving for the set, Mertens tightened and a double fault on
break point handed the Ukrainian a way back.
Mertens still had a second chance to serve out. Another
double fault allowed Svitolina a glimmer at 15-30, but Mertens composed herself
and landed three first serves to secure the set 6-4.
The Belgian had powered 16 winners to Svitolina's eight and
significantly won nine of 12 points at the net.
Svitolina was immediately in trouble at 0-40 at the start of
She saved those but a weak forehand into the net gave a
fourth and Mertens landed an overhead smack on the sideline to secure the
Another break followed, and a third courtesy of a sumptuous
backhand pass took Mertens to the brink of the last four at 5-0.
She completed the humbling of Svitolina with little fuss and
will face either second seed Caroline Wozniacki or unseeded Carla Suarez
Navarro for a place in Saturday's final.
If she makes it she will emulate Clijsters, who won at
Melbourne Park in 2011.
Mertens had a message for her countrywoman and tennis great
who she said would be following the match in the middle of the night back home.
"Kim, thanks for watching and don't get too