It seemed very easy for Iga Swiatek last season – two Grand Slam titles, eight titles in total, a 37-game winning streak, a long stay at the top of the world rankings.
These accomplishments made everyone expect continued greatness from Swiatek, which they can do nothing against. They’ve also changed the way she handles the big moments, and her 6-4, 6-4 loss to Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Sunday made Swiatek wonder if she should reassess her prospects.
“I felt like I had taken a step back in the way I approached these tournaments, and maybe I would have liked to get a little stronger. So I’ll try to relax a little bit more,” Swiatek said. “I felt the pressure and said to myself ‘I don’t want to lose’ instead of ‘I want to win’.”
So there will be no showdown between Swiatek and No. 7 Coco Gauff in the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park. Instead, Rybakina will face 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, a 7-5, 6-3 winner over Gauff, with a semi-final spot on the line.
“I left her under a lot of stress,” said Ostapenko.
Adding Swiatek’s loss to Week 1 releases of Anas Jaber, Rafael Nadal and Casper Rudd, this Australian Open marks the first Grand Slam tournament of the Open Era – which began in 1968 – in which the top two seeds disappeared before the quarter. -finals.
And in another women’s event on Sunday, third seed Jessica Pegula reached the quarter-finals in Australia for the third year in a row by defeating 2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejkova 7-5, 6-2, and awaits the winner of tonight’s match between the two. . – Then Victoria Azarenka, the Australian Open champion, and Zhou Lin, in no order.
Rybakina, seeded 22nd, 23rd, representing Kazakhstan, seeded 17th, Ostapenko, 25th, of Latvia, came this far in Melbourne for the first time.
said Gauff, 18, of Florida, a finalist at the French Open last June in Swatik.
“There were balls I’d hit deep, and she’d hit them in the line and hit them deep, over and over,” said Goff, who dried tears during his press conference. She didn’t follow my path and I followed hers. »
Key: Ostapenko went 3-for-3 to convert his break chances, and Gough was 1-for-8 in such situations.
Meanwhile, Rybakina used his big serve to produce half a dozen aces, part of his 24-15 aggregate advantage against Swiatek.
On the men’s front, 22-year-old American Sebastian Korda – whose father Peter won the 1998 Australian Open – reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final by defeating Hubert Hurkacz 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 1 -6, 7-6 (10-7), unranked Jerry Lischka beat No. 6 Felix Auger-Aliassime 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3) and No. 6.18 Karen . Khachanov beat No. 31 Yoshihito Nishioka 6-0 6-0 7-6 (4).
Korda will now meet Khachanov, while Lehica will meet third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas or 15th seed Yannick Sener.
Until Sunday, Swiatek and Gauff looked pretty in control for a week, winning every set they contested. Swiatek lost a total of just 15 games, Gauff only 19, in three matches.
“For sure, when you play against the top seed, I think you really have nothing to lose. I knew I had to be aggressive from the first ball because she’s a great pusher, and she defends really well,” said Rybakina. “So I was just trying to attack him from the ball. First, succeeded.
His ranking of 25 does not accurately reflect his ability or results as the All England Club Championship in July yielded no ranking points. The WTA and ATP tours have banned all venues at Wimbledon in 2022 after the All England Club banned players from Russia and Belarus from taking part in the invasion of Ukraine.
Rybakina – who was born in Moscow but has played for Kazakhstan since 2018, when that country offered funding to support her tennis career – said her current stature “doesn’t bother me, because it’s already been six months”, but concedes that this also offers no motivation.
Despite her status as a great champion, Rybakina is not in the spotlight: her first-round match was played at Melbourne Park on small court 13 last Monday; Her match was against at least two-time slam champion Garbiñe Muguruza at the US Open on Court 4.
But his game deserves more attention, as he demonstrated Swiatek’s knockout, one-game win over 2022 Australian Open runner-up Danielle Collins.
Swiatek was not in the best shape and Rybakina had a lot to do with it. In the first game, Swiatek drove to a par of 40 but got busted. The next day, Swiatek held two break points at 15-40 but also failed to convert. Quite early on, when the match finished 2-2, it would have been 4-0 in Swiatek’s favour, and she called the streak “a bit dull”.
Rybakina ended up serving the group lovingly, landing the ace at 183 kmph (113 mph), and her linear backhand was very useful: She produced six winners from that wing in the first set, compared to zero for @Swiatek.
In the second set, it looked like Swiatek would get back on track, coming up 3-0. But this rally was short-lived, and Rybakina made six of the last seven wins in the game.