MELBOURNE, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Magda Linette said missing out on the Australian Open two years ago because of a chronic knee injury made her more determined to reignite her career, as she prepares for her first Grand Slam semi-final on Thursday.
Late-blooming Linette goes into the semi-final after earning a 6-3 7-5 win over former world number one Karolina Pliskova, having never made it past the third round of a major before.
Linette withdrew from the 2021 Australian Open one day before her flight to Melbourne because of a knee injury that took 11 weeks to diagnose and kept her sidelined for five months.
The 30-year-old from Poland said she felt envy for the players who competed in 2021, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, after spending two weeks in quarantine upon arrival.
"It was honestly the most painful experience of my life," Linette told reporters on Wednesday. "I had meniscus surgery, but because it was kind of tricky where the injury was, nobody could really see what was happening.
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"Literally one day before my flight the pain and the uncomfortable feeling that I had came back with some extra force.
"(I) listened to everybody complaining about the isolation, and I was so jealous that they had to do it, because I really wanted to be there."
Linette, who has credited her improved mental strength for her Melbourne run, said she had doubts about the future of her career after returning from the lengthy layoff but found herself calmer than ever on court after she returned to competition.
"Why? Because I think it couldn't be really worse, right? I honestly didn't play for five months," Linette said. "I came back within six weeks. I was very determined to come back as soon as I can. I rushed it a little bit too much.
"It definitely changed a lot for me. I became a little bit calmer. I changed a lot in my life and made some tough decisions, and I think I'm getting rewarded for it now."
Linette will meet the fifth seed, Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, for a place in the final.
"My first serve wasn't always there (against Pliskova). I think I did really well not to panic and still stay in the rally and go for the shots when I had the chance," she said.
"That was, I think, something I did the best."
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