Iga Swiatek, number 7 in the world ranking, and Coco Gauff, number 7, lose at the Australian Open

Iga Swiatek, number 7 in the world ranking, and Coco Gauff, number 7, lose at the Australian Open

Everything turned out so seemingly easy for Iga Swiatek last season: two Grand Slam trophies, eight titles in total, a 37-match winning streak, a long stay at number 1 in the ranking.

Those achievements made everyone else expect constant greatness from Swiatek, about which she can do nothing. They also changed the way she approached big moments, and a 6-4, 6-4 loss to Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Sunday had Swiatek wondering if she needs to reassess the perspective of her

“I felt like I took a step back in terms of how I approach these tournaments, and maybe I wanted it too much. So I’m going to try to relax a bit more,” Swiatek said.

“I felt the pressure and felt like ‘I don’t want to lose’ instead of ‘I want to win’.”

Therefore, there will be no showdown between Swiatek and No.7 seed Coco Gauff in the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park. Instead, Rybakina will face 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, a 7-5, 6-3 winner against Gauff, with a semifinal spot on the line.

“I kept her under a lot of pressure,” Ostapenko said.

Add the Swiatek loss to the Week 1 exits of Ons Jabeur, Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud, and this Australian Open marks the first Grand Slam tournament in the Open era, which began in 1968, with the top two seeds women and the two missing men’s seeds. before the quarterfinals.

Both 22nd seed Rybakina, a 23-year-old representing Kazakhstan, and 17th-seeded Ostapenko, a 25-year-old from Latvia, made it this far in Melbourne for the first time.

“There were times in the game where I was frustrated because I can usually solve problems, but today I feel like I didn’t have a lot of answers to what I was doing,” said Gauff, an 18-year-old from Florida who was runner-up to Swiatek. at the French Open last June.

“There were balls that she was hitting deep, and she was hitting them down the line and she was hitting them deep, over and over again,” said Gauff, who wiped away tears during her news conference. “It’s just one of those days that she just didn’t go my way and went her way.”

One clue: Ostapenko went 3-for-3 taking advantage of his break chances, and Gauff was only 1-for-8 in such situations.

Meanwhile, Rybakina used her big serve to produce half a dozen aces, part of an overall 24-15 lead in total winners against Swiatek.

The women’s fourth rounds scheduled for later on Sunday were: No.3 Jessica Pegula against 2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka against unseeded Zhu Lin.

In men’s action, 13th seed Karen Khachanov reached the quarterfinals by beating No. 31 Yoshihito Nishioka 6-0, 6-0, 7-6(4), setting up a match against No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz or No. 29 Sebastian Korda. , who were playing in the afternoon.

Other men’s matches Sunday: No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. No. 15 Jannik Sinner, and No. 6 Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. unseeded Jiri Lehecka.

A tennis player pumps her left fist in celebration while holding a racket in her right hand.
Elena Rybakina celebrates a match point during her fourth round win over Iga Swiatek in Melbourne on Sunday. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Until Sunday, both Swiatek and Gauff looked pretty dominant for a week, winning every set they played. Swiatek lost a total of just 15 games, Gauff just 19, in three matches.

“Of course, when you play the No. 1, I think you really have nothing to lose. I knew I had to be aggressive from the first ball because she is a great player and defends very well,” Rybakina said. “So she was trying to attack her from the first ball, and she really worked well.

His ranking of No. 25 does not adequately reflect his ability or results because his championship at the All England Club in July did not come with any ranking points. The WTA and ATP tours retained all points at Wimbledon in 2022 after the All England Club banned players from Russia and Belarus from participating due to the invasion of Ukraine.

Rybakina, who was born in Moscow but has played for Kazakhstan since 2018, when that country offered her funds to support her tennis career, said her current position “doesn’t bother me, because it’s been six months now” but also acknowledged it. she provides some motivation.

Despite her status as a Grand Slam champion, Rybakina has been out of the spotlight: her first-round match at Melbourne Park took place on the tiny Court 13 last Monday; Her match against two-time Slam champion Garbine Muguruza at least at the US Open of the year was on court 4.

But her game deserves a lot more attention, as she demonstrated by knocking out Swiatek, a match after defeating Australian Open 2022 runner-up Danielle Collins.

Swiatek was not at his best and Rybakina had a lot to do with it. In the opening game, Swiatek led 40-love but was broken. In the next, Swiatek had two break points at 15-40 but failed to convert any. So early on, although it ended up being 2-2, it very well could have been 4-0 in favor of Swiatek, calling that sequence “a bit disturbing.”

Rybakina ended up serving that set to love, finishing with a 183kph ace, and her dangerous backhand helped big too: she produced six winners from that flank in the first set, compared to zero for Swiatek.

In the second set, Swiatek seemed to be back on track, going up 3-0. But that surge didn’t last long, with Rybakina winning six of the last seven games in the match.

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