In a fourth-round showdown between two of last year’s Grand Slam champions, No.22 seed Elena Rybakina upset top-ranked Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and a half to make her first Australian Open quarterfinal.
Rybakina will face another major champion and first-time Australian Open quarterfinalist in the elite eight: No.17 seed Jelena Ostapenko, who ousted No.7 seed Coco Gauff.
Here are some takeaways from 2022 Wimbledon champion Rybakina’s victory over three-time major titlist Swiatek:
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Rybakina possesses big-match confidence: The Kazakh already proved she could power her way to a Grand Slam title with her booming serve and winners at 2022 Wimbledon. Sunday's match was the first meeting between reigning major champions since Ashleigh Barty beat Barbora Krejcikova in the Cincinnati quarterfinals in the summer of 2021.
Rybakina had nine previous Top 10 wins on her resume, two of those coming at Grand Slams. Before Sunday, she had never beaten a current World No.1, having lost twice to then top-ranked Ashleigh Barty, but the signs were already present that it was only a matter of time.
"I actually played at Rod Laver [Arena] against Ash Barty in 2020," Rybakina said in her post-match press conference. "I started well [that] season: I won in Hobart and then third round against her, and it was unbelievable crowd, of course.
"I kind of knew what to expect on these big courts, and I just tried to do my best and tried to focus on my serve. A few games were not really successful on my serve, but in the end I think I did a good job."
Previous experience helps: Rybakina also had a win over Swiatek to look back on, even though it didn’t count in their official head-to-head. Swiatek had won their one previous professional meeting in Ostrava last year, but they had squared off twice in the juniors, splitting those matches.
"It was a really tough match," Rybakina said about her juniors victory over Swiatek at 2017 Milan. "I think we played three sets. It was super long. I remember some good rallies. It was on clay, different surface.
"But I think against Iga, it's always tough battles, no matter if I win or lose. I think our style of the game is naturally we kind of like having these tough battles."
The first shot set Rybakina apart early: Rybakina showed little resistance about attacking the Swiatek second serve, leading to an early 2-0 advantage in the first set. Swiatek was equally as impressive, winning second-return points as she pulled back level at 2-2.
But Rybakina cracked another backhand return winner to break Swiatek again for 4-3 and was impenetrable on serve from there. Rybakina totaled four aces in the opening frame.
Rybakina won 79 percent of her first-service points in the first set, well ahead of Swiatek’s 63 percent success rate.
"For sure when you play against No.1, I think you have really nothing to lose," Rybakina said. "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."
Tidier second set sealed the surprise: In the opening set, Rybakina had more unforced errors than winners, but in the second set, she cleaned up her ground game, which rose to the level of her serves and returns.
After falling behind 3-0, Rybakina recovered and won six of the next seven games to finish off the upset. In that second set, she had 11 winners to nine unforced errors. Swiatek, on the other hand, had six winners to eight unforced errors.
Rybakina now faces the challenge of Ostapenko in the quarterfinals. Ostapenko has won both of their previous meetings in straight sets.