Elena Rybakina and Jelena Ostapenko both stormed into the Viking International quarterfinals with irresistible displays of power against higher-ranked opponents. Rybakina upset No.2 seed Elina Svitolina 6-4, 7-6(3), while wildcard Ostapenko came from a set and a break down to halt Ons Jabeur 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.
Playing the fourth grass-court tournament of her career, Rybakina delivered a stellar performance to capture her first Top 10 win on the surface, avenging a three-set loss to Svitolina in last year's Strasbourg final. Her overall record against Top 10 opposition is now 6-6.
Elena Rybakina's Top 10 wins
2018 St. Petersburg R2, d. Caroline Garcia 4-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(5)
2019 Wuhan R3, d. Simona Halep 5-4 ret.
2020 Dubai R1, d. Sofia Kenin 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-3
2020 Dubai QF, d. Karolina Pliskova 7-6(1), 6-3
2021 Roland Garros R4, d. Serena Williams 6-3, 7-5
2021 Eastbourne R2, d. Elina Svitolina 6-4, 7-6(3)
In total, the 22-year-old Kazakh balanced 32 winners with 32 unforced errors and maintained a 64% first serve percentage. In the first set, that number was as high as 71%, and consequently she did not need to face a break point for its duration.
Rybakina was also able to raise her game to a near-unplayable level at exactly the right moment: just as Svitolina held game point to move up 5-4, she found three stunning forehand winners to snatch the crucial break and take the lead instead.
The World No.21's form continued into the second set, where she seized an early break of the Svitolina serve in the third game. But the tenacious Ukrainian proved hard to put away. Rybakina missed an opportunity to take a 5-2 double-break lead; and although she was rock-solid in fending off five break-back points in the next game, an errant forehand on a sixth enabled Svitolina to draw level at 4-4.
Shaking off the setback, Rybakina again broke Svitolina and, serving for the match, fired consecutive aces to reach 30-0. Svitolina clung on via a series of fine returns to eventually force a tiebreak, but the resilient Rybakina was undeterred. A series of emphatic serves and backhands enabled her to dominate it, and she sealed her third match point with a service winner.
Earlier, Ostapenko had ended Birmingham champion Jabeur's six-match winning streak in similar style, tallying near-identical numbers to Rybakina: 31 winners to 33 unforced errors.
Focused power had enabled the Latvian to take a 4-2 lead in the first set, only for Jabeur to find a series of her trademark hot shots - including an audacious dropshot return - to wrest the momentum back. Thrown off course, Ostapenko began to lose her accuracy - and six out of seven games to fall behind a set and a break.
But the Tunisian was unable to sustain her level in the second set, in which her winner tally dropped from 11 to five as her unforced errors mounted from eight to 13. Both players struggled to find consistency, and the set opened with six breaks of serve in its first seven games. It was Ostapenko who broke the ragged run of play in style: with Jabeur serving to stay in the set, the World No.43 found consecutive brilliant winners to force a decider.
In the third set, Ostapenko found her strongest serving of the day, landing 74% of her first deliveries - the highest number in any set. As a result, she conceded only seven points on serve, and was able to pile the pressure on to Jabeur. Just as in the second set, Ostapenko peaked at the right moment, finding a forehand winner down the line to break Jabeur for 5-3 and subsequently serving out the win to 15.
Sevastova maintains Gauff mastery, Golubic upsets Bencic in all-Swiss derby
Anastasija Sevastova continued to make the most of her lucky loser opportunity, as the former World No.11 earned a comeback win over American teenager Coco Gauff 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Sevastova and Gauff have had their first three career meetings all within the last 12 months. The Latvian needed an hour and 51 minutes to maintain her undefeated record over the 17-year-old and extend her run in Eastbourne despite a loss in the final round of qualifying to Christina McHale.
It was a pristine opening set by both through 5-4, with neither player facing a break point. However, Sevastova faltered in that game, hitting two double faults and a forehand miscue to suddenly give Gauff the first two break points of the match, which doubled as set points. Gauff only needed one as a Sevastova forehand found the net, and the American took the opener.
Gauff reeled off aces and winners on game points to build a 5-2 lead in the second set, putting herself a game away from a two-set victory. But, as per the custom in their rivalry, Sevastova found strong passes and drew errors to chip away at that lead. Brick by brick, the Latvian picked up five games in a row, with two service breaks in that run, to steal the second set.
With the momentum fully on her side, Sevastova wrested control of the match after Gauff hit back-to-back double faults to cede her service at 2-2. Sevastova continued to pull errors from the American as she claimed the final five games of the match, finishing it out with a love hold to set up a quarterfinal battle with Elena Rybakina.
Elsewhere, two more qualifiers also booked places in the last eight. Camila Giorgi, who had ousted defending champion Karolina Pliskova in the first round, backed up the upset by defeating lucky loser Shelby Rogers 6-3, 4-6, 6-2; and Viktorija Golubic pulled off a significant upset 6-4, 6-4 over No.6 seed Belinda Bencic.
Bencic, the Eastbourne champion in 2015, was fresh off a run to the Berlin final last week. Coming into the all-Swiss derby, Bencic also owned a dominant record against her compatriots: 3-0 at WTA level and 7-1 in total, with her only loss coming at the age of 14 to Xenia Knoll in the 2011 Lenzerheide ITF W25 event.
But Golubic, 28, has been in resurgent form this year, reaching two WTA 250 finals in Lyon and Monterrey in March and collecting the Saint-Malo WTA 125 title in May. The World No.72 extended her season record to 39-11 with the fifth Top 20 win of her career.