The women’s draw at the Australian Open got even more interesting after both favorites Iga Swiatek and Coco Gauff were eliminated in the fourth round.
Swiatek, who had been in dominant form in Grand Slam play, was no match for the powerful Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina who eased past the world No. 1 6-4, 6-4.
It was Rybakina’s first win over a world No. 1
“She’s a young player and I think she plays really well and today I think I was serving also good, just struggling a bit on one side but in the end in the important moments I played really well so it made the difference,” Rybakina said.
“Of course, I’m nervous every time I go on the court, like everybody, but I’m calm always.
Swiatek added that she felt the pressure of wanting to win.
“Elena was the one that was more solid today, and I felt like it was more about who is going to put more pressure on the opponent and she did that pretty well,” Swiatek said. “She served as she does usually. I wanted to [push] her back, but on my service games I felt like I need to work really, really hard to get any point because my first serve wasn’t working.
“It was just tough. But for sure I need to work on my mindset and fight a little bit more as I did last season. So, for sure I’m going to take time right now to kind of reset.
“I felt the pressure, and I felt that I don’t want to lose instead of I want to win,” Swiatek added. “So that’s a base of what I should focus on in next couple of weeks.”
On MCA, Gauff was in similar peril against the big-hitting Jelena Ostapenko going down 7-5, 6-3. Gauff’s defense wasn’t enough for the Latvian’s firepower as Ostapenko belted 30 winners and only lost serve once.
“She hit a lot of winners, which not a lot of people can do on me,” Gauff said. “There were balls I was hitting deep, and she was hitting them on the line and hitting them back deep, like, over and over again. It’s just one of those days that just didn’t go my way and went her way.”
Each into their first Australian Open quarterfinals, Ostapenko will now face Rybakina on Tuesday.
“Before, I was still hitting the ball hard, but I was not really stepping in the court,” Ostpenko said. “Now I feel like I’m stepping much better in the court and taking the ball earlier, so I take time away from the opponents, which makes me a more dangerous player.
“I was working a lot on my movement and also the fitness and kind of everything.”
American No. 1 Jessica Pegula fought off a tough opening set to take it over Barbora Krejcikova 7-5, 6-2.
“I think the court felt a little bit faster than the other courts, which I think helped me a lot,” said Pegula. “Tried to not give her a lot of time to set up and angle me off the court, where she can work the court really well. Her court sense is really good.”
As the highest seed remaining, Pegula is now the woman to beat.
“It feels like there’s still a long ways to go, to be honest,” Pegula said. “I look at the draw you have Rybakina who won Wimbledon last year, you have Vika who does really well here, Caroline won the championships.
“It doesn’t really feel like I’m the highest left, even though I guess that’s a cool stat.”
Victoria Azarenka kept her hopes alive for a third Australian Open title. The former No. 1 needed three sets and 2 hours, 40 minutes to dispatch 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in match that ended after 2am. She will now take on Pegula.
“It was hell of a match. I felt like the bullets were coming from every angle, on the run, off the run, on the line, touch the net,” Azarenka said.
“I had couple really tough three sets that didn’t turn my way, and I was very, very close. Today was very important for me.”
On Monday in Melbourne, recent Adelaide winners Aryna Sabalenka and Belinda Bencic head into battle. Former semifinalist Karolina Pliskova and the in-form Carolina Garcia are in action along with the 17-year-old Czech phenom Linda Fruhvirtova.
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