World number one Iga Swiatek was knocked out of the Australian Open in the fourth round on Sunday, losing a showdown of current Grand Slam champions to Elena Rybakina in straight sets.
Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon winner from Kazakhstan, beat Poland’s Swiatek, the French and US Open champion, 6-4, 6-4 in 1hr 29min on Rod Laver Arena to advance to the quarter-finals.
“It was a really tough match and I really respect Iga,” said Rybakina, the 22nd seed.
“She’s a young player and think she played really well,” she added of the 21-year-old from Poland. “It’s a big win and I’m just happy to get to another round.”
Rybakina will face either seventh Coco Gauff or Jelena Ostapenko in the quarter-finals.
Swiatek led 40-0 on her opening service game and 15-40 on Rybakina’s delivery in the next.
But it was the 6ft (1.84m) tall Russian-born player who showed her resilience and power to win both for an early 2-0 lead.
The Pole composed herself to hold in the next and then went on the attack, creating three break points and converting the first when Rybakina went long to level the set at 2-2.
At 3-3, 30-30, Swiatek’s first double fault gave Rybakina another chance which she seized with a sizzling backhand crosscourt return.
The Wimbledon champion comfortably served out, powering down her fourth ace on her first set point to move ahead after 42 minutes.
The 23-year-old Rybakina had been on court for more than two hours and taken to a third set 10-point tiebreak as she knocked out last year’s finalist Danielle Collins in the third round.
By contrast, Swiatek dropped just one game and did not face a break point during her last-round romp past Spanish qualifier Cristina Bucsa.
Swiatek stepped up at start of the second set, attacking off her forehand and broke immediately for 2-0 to chants of “Iga, Iga” from a small, but noisy, contingent of Polish fans clad in red and white.
The cries were short-lived.
Rybakina broke to love at 1-3 as Swiatek’s first serve deserted her.
Rybakina, by contrast, was now firing down serves with power and accuracy, her fifth ace helping her to level at 3-3.
“I think I was serving good and just struggling a bit on one side,” said the composed Rybakina.
“But in the important moments I played really well and that made the difference.”
Swiatek had won the pair’s only previous meeting in straight sets at Ostrava in 2021.
But history counted for nothing against the confident Kazakh who forced Swiatek to save two break points at 4-4.
A sixth forehand winner of the match from Rybakina created a third, which she took when the Pole netted and served out with ease to take the match.
Swiatek is a three-time major champion, including titles at the French Open and U.S. Open last season.
Rybakina’s ranking does not properly reflect her ability or results because her championship at the All England Club last July did not come with any ranking points. The WTA and ATP tours withheld all points at Wimbledon in 2022 after the All England Club barred players from Russia and Belarus from participating because of the invasion of Ukraine.
Rybakina was born in Moscow but has represented Kazakhstan since 2018, when that country offered her funding to support her tennis career.
(With inputs from Agencies)
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