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Down goes Iga! Rybakina stuns top-seeded Swiatek at Australian Open

Elena Rybakina won against Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-4 on Sunday and will face Jelena Ostapenko, the No 17 seed.

Elena Rybakina 2023 Australian Open Elena Rybakina 2023 Australian Open || AI / Reuters / Panoramic
Australian Open •Round of 16 • completed
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Cool. Calm. Collected – and triumphant. 22nd-seeded Elena Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon champion, stunned top-seeded Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-4 to advance to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Sunday night with a breathtaking performance that left the heavily favored three-time Grand Slam champion out of sorts.

Three-time champion Swiatek, who had won 24 of her previous 26 matches at the Slams, falls to 15-5 lifetime at the Australian Open.

Important moments and first serve made the difference

“In the end, I think in important moments, I played really well, so it made a difference,” Rybakina said on court after producing a stellar takedown of the tour’s top-ranked player by scorching 24 winners and converting four of six break points.

Rybakina won 80 percent of her first-serve points while Swiatek was only able to manage 56 percent of hers. She fired six aces and saved four of six break points (compared to two of six saved for Swiatek).

The Kazakh stormed to an early 2-0 lead and weathered a fightback from Swiatek in the opening set. After Swiatek broke back for 2-2, it was Rybakina who took the initiative in the seventh game, scorching a backhand return winner for a 4-3 lead.

She would hold serve the rest of the way, serving out the set at love.

“In the end, I think in important moments, I played really well, so it made a difference.”

Elena Rybakina

Swiatek threatened to take over the match early in set two as she reeled off the opening three games of the stanza, but Rybakina quickly hit back, holding for 3-1 then engineering a break at love to get back on serve. The pair moved in step until 4-4, when Rybakina froze Swiatek at the baseline with a looping forehand winner to give her a third break point of the game.

Swiatek made the perfect serve on the next point but promptly dumped her next forehand into the net to hand over the break.

Another love hold for the No 22 seed concluded festivities.

“For sure when you play against No. 1, I think you have really nothing to lose,” Rybakina told reporters after her win. “I knew that I had to be aggressive from the first ball because she’s a great mover, and she defends really well.

“So I was trying to just attack her from the first ball, and it really worked well.”

First win over a reigning world No 1, 10th top-10 win

The victory marked Rybakina’s 10th top-10 win and her first over a reigning world No 1. Her muted reaction to such an important victory was explained by Rybakina on court after the match:

“No, of course, I am nervous every time I go on the court, like everybody but I’m calm always. At least I’m trying not to show so much emotions – my coach says that I actually need to show them sometimes so I’m kind of also learning, but for sure I’m nervous, it’s a big win and I’m just happy to get to another round.”

Top seed futility – A first for Open Era tennis

The loss by top-seeded Swiatek means that for the first time in Open Era history, not a single top two seed has made the quarter-finals of the men’s or women’s singles draws at a Grand Slam.

Men

  1. Rafael Nadal (lost to McDonald, round 2)
  2. Casper Ruud (lost to Brooksby, round 2)

Women

  1. Iga Swiatek (lost to Rybakina, round of 16)
  2. Ons Jabeur (lost to Vondrousova, Round 2)

Melbourne (Grand Slam), other last 16 results (Melbourne Park, hard, USD 24.297.942, most recent results first):

  • Donna Vekic vs. Linda Fruhvirtova
  • Aryna Sabalenka vs. Belinda Bencic
  • Magda Linette vs. Caroline Garcia
  • Karolina Pliskova vs. Shuai Zhang
  • Victoria Azarenka vs. Lin Zhu
  • Jessica Pegula vs. Barbora Krejcikova
  • Jelena Ostapenko vs. Coco Gauff: sunday
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