Melbourne, Jan. 23: It all came so seemingly easy for Iga Swiatek last season — two Grand Slam trophies, eight titles overall, a 37-match winning streak, a lengthy stay at No. 1 in the rankings.
Those accomplishments made everyone else expect constant greatness from Swiatek, which she can't do anything about. They also changed the way she approached big moments, and a 6-4, 6-4 loss to Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the Australian Open's fourth round Sunday made Swiatek wonder whether she needs to reassess her outlook.
"I felt like I took a step back in terms of how I approach these tournaments, and I maybe wanted it a little bit too hard. So I'm going to try to chill out a little bit more," Swiatek said. "I felt the pressure, and I felt that 'I don't want to lose' instead of 'I want to win.'"
So there will not be a showdown between Swiatek and No. 7 seed Coco Gauff in the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park. Instead, it will be Rybakina taking on 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, a 7-5, 6-3 winner against Gauff, with a semifinal berth at stake.
"I kept her under so much pressure," Ostapenko said.
Add Swiatek's loss to Week 1 exits by Ons Jabeur, Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud, and this Australian Open marks the first Grand Slam tournament in the Open era — which began in 1968 — with the top two women's seeds and top two men's seeds all gone before the quarterfinals.
In other women's action Sunday, No. 3 Jessica Pegula got to the quarterfinals in Australia for the third year in a row by defeating 2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova 7-5, 6-2, and awaited the winner of the night match between two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and unseeded Zhu Lin.
Both the 22nd-seeded Rybakina, a 23-year-old who represents Kazakhstan, and the 17th-seeded Ostapenko, a 25-year-old from Latvia, made it this far in Melbourne for the first time.
In men's results, 22-year-old American Sebastian Korda — whose father, Petr, won the 1998 Australian Open — reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal by edging No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7), unseeded Jiri Lehecka upset No. 6 Felix Auger-Aliassime 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3), and No. 18 Karen Khachanov eased past No. 31 Yoshihito Nishioka 6-0, 6-0, 7-6 (4).
Korda will meet Khachanov now, while Lehecka takes on No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas, who outlasted No. 15 Jannik Sinner 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3 on Sunday night. Lehecka was 0-4 in Grand Slam matches until this tournament, while Tsitsipas was the runner-up at the 2021 French Open and is a three-time semifinalist at Melbourne Park. (AP)