Well, here’s an unusually eclectic group of quarterfinalists from the bottom half of the draw:
Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, a 36-year-old ranked No.115 in the world, who took out the No.2 seed. Alize Cornet, who reached her first major quarterfinal on her 63rd try. Danielle Collins, a terrific college player who didn’t turn professional until the age of 22. And Iga Swiatek – the youngest of the four, but the least surprising visitor to the second week here at the Australian Open.
Swiatek has now done that at six consecutive majors, beginning with her 2020 fall title at Roland Garros – the longest active streak in all of tennis. As time passes, is she feeling less pressure to win a second major?
“You know,” she told reporters, “I’m still 20, so I feel like I have time. Kind of just winning a Grand Slam at  is pretty weird, because there are many players who are working for it for many years. I feel like even when I won, I felt like I’m not even aware of what it takes for other players to do that.
“And for sure winning second Grand Slam is going to be more similar to that, because, you know, when I had that French Open run, it was all pretty surreal. Right now I feel like I really have to work for it if I want to win another one.”
That work continues Wednesday in a match against Kanepi, while Collins meets Cornet. There is no roadmap here. These are both first-time matchups.
No.7 Iga Swiatek versus Kaia Kanepi
After upsetting Aryna Sabalenka in a third-set super-tiebreak, Kanepi said she was exhausted.
“I think I would be more happy if I won after two, three match points,” she said. “I was really tight, yeah. My hand was shaking when I started serving.”
With Sabalenka serving at 4-5, Kanepi just missed on four match points. She converted her fifth in the tiebreak and now has a boxed set of all four major quarterfinals. The first came in 2008 at Roland Garros.
💪 Next one in the books. Thanks for your support, it gave me a lot of energy today. It was my fight. Now it's time for the quaterfinal, but first… to be just proud and get some rest. Many thanks to my team, too!#grandslam #teamSwiatek @AustralianOpen pic.twitter.com/nAOKoaUVWi— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) January 24, 2022
“It just feels great that I got Australian Open quarterfinal, too,” Kanepi said. “I also didn’t think I would play well in Australia, because during my career, I have heard that Australia doesn’t suit to everybody, and I thought that I’m just the one who doesn’t really like playing here. But last two years I have played really well here.”
Swiatek, dropped her first set in Melbourne but came back to defeat Sorana Cirstea 5-7, 6-3, 6-3.
“These kind of matches are going to give me a lot of confidence for the future, because coming back from losing in first set and against a player who’s constantly going forward, it’s pretty hard, and I did that,” Swiatek said. “I feel like I can approach these different scenarios on court and at the end it’s pretty positive.”
Swiatek is now 28-2 against opponents ranked outside the Top 30 at majors. Kanepi, though, has a flair for springing surprises. She beat Sabalenka at last year’s Melbourne 500 as well and defeated Simona Halep at the 2018 US Open and Caroline Wozniacki 11 years ago in Tokyo – when they were both ranked No.1.
“I haven’t watched her, I never played her, and I don’t know how her ball feels, so we’ll see when I play her,” Kanepi said . “What I expect is to play good.”
No. 27 Danielle Collins versus Alize Cornet
Previously, Tamarine Tanasugarn had the longest span before reaching a Grand Slam singles quarterfinal, breaking through on her 45th try at 2008 Wimbledon. Maybe that’s why Cornet collapsed along the baseline after she finally converted on her 63rd attempt.
“After 16 years on the tour, I never give up,” she said later in her press conference. “Today I realized this goal that was very important to me for a while. After beating few big names, Muguruza, Halep [in the last round], they are all players that I admire a lot.
“I don’t know what happened in the past, and really, honestly, right now I don’t care.”
Cornet took out No.14 Simona Halep 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 – and now owns an impressive 4-1 career record against her. In the third round, Cornet trailed Tamara Zidansek 6-4, 4-1 before staging an improbable comeback.
"I can't hide my true nature. If I'm a drama queen for the people, then I am.— wta (@WTA) January 24, 2022
"What I know is that I give everything I have on the court."
🇫🇷 @alizecornet speaks with @WTA_insider on her breakthrough Slam win at #AO2022 👇
Collins, the No.27 seed, had to orchestrate a comeback of her own before beating Elise Mertens 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Collins was a semifinalist here in 2019, her best Slam effort to date.
“The last couple years after I made semis I think I lost like second round each year, so to be back in the quarters means a lot,” she said. “It’s taken a lot to get to the quarters, some really tough battles and tough opponents.”
Both Collins and Cornet are known for their brand of on-court intensity.
“She’s like a lion,” Cornet said of Collins. “Oh, my God, she impresses me a little bit because she’s like so intense, I’m intense too, but I think she’s next-level intense.”
Collins used a surfing analogy to describe her style of crisis management.
“I think to do well in these events, you kind of have to ride out the storm,” Collins said. “I love watching professional surfing, and I really admire what they do, how they get up on the board, how they deal with all the elements.
“I think you have moments where you’re playing some of your best tennis. Sometimes you lose your rhythm. Sometimes you’re dealing with some little pestering aches and pains. There’s so many different elements. I try to just, try to ride it out as much as possible.”