AO2023: Swiatek out, Tsitsipas survives

 - Alex Sharp

Quarter-final tickets were up for grabs as major names battled it out at Melbourne Park.

Iga Swiatek / Huitièmes de finale Open d'Australie 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Some of tennis and results springing up Down Under are going beyond belief.

The 2023 Australian Open has already been a special edition and Sunday served up even more memorable moments. Here is what you may have missed…

Swiatek swept aside

World No.1 Iga Swiatek had eyes fixed on a second successive hard-court Grand Slam, but was ruthlessly dismissed by Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina.

It was the ultimate Last 16 showdown and the Kazakh unleashed her full firepower on Rod Laver Arena to prevail 6-4, 6-4.

“It was a really tough match. I really respect Iga because the winning streak she has and her Grand Slams,” said Rybakina.

Elena Rybakina / Huitièmes de finale Open d'Australie 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

“For sure when you play against No.1, I think you have really nothing to lose. 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."

For Swiatek, it's working out how to keep producing her mesmerising tennis under the pressure at the top.

"For sure, past two weeks have been pretty hard for me," stated Swiatek.

"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. I'm going to try to chill out a little bit more."

"I felt the pressure, and I felt that 'I don't want to lose' instead of 'I want to win'. So that's a base of what I should focus on in the next couple of weeks."

Iga Swiatek / Open d'Australie 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Ostapenko blazes into final eight

Rybakina's quarter-final opponent will be 2017 Roland-Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko

The Latvian is simply unplayable when in the groove, cannonballing 30 winners past No.7 seed Coco Gauff for a 7-5, 6-3 triumph. 

"I really had nothing to lose so I just went there and tried to show my best, tried to fight for every point and to make it hard for her," said Ostapenko, reviewing her time since Roland-Garros glory.

 "My life changed a lot, so I needed a few years to really get used to what happened because I was really young. I was 19 and then turned 20."

"I always knew and believed in my game. If I play well, I can beat almost anyone. I was trying to work more on my consistency, especially in the pre-season. I think I'm doing it quite well this week."

Coco Gauff & Jelena Ostapenko - Open d'Australie 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Tsitispas strikes in Sinner thriller

Rod Laver was in the house, well, his own court, to witness a remarkable match as Stefanos Tsitspas came up trumps in the clutch moments.

The Greek saved 22 of 26 break points in a seesaw match, staying true to his attacking instincts, to outmanoeuvre Jannik Sinner 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3.

"I felt like I spent an entire century on this court playing," joked the No.3 seed, back in the quarter-finals for the fourth time in his past five Melbourne Park trips.

Stefanos Tsitsipas / Huitièmes de finale Open d'Australie 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

"It felt so long. What a great night. That was superb, a ripper as they say here. 

"I had an unbelievable opponent on the other side of the court playing incredible tennis in the third and fourth set. Stayed really calm, just like Mr Rod Laver used to do in his day."

Just like watching legendary Czech Tomas Berdych, his Next Gen compatriot Jiri Lehecka is a force to be reckoned with.

The 21-year-old chalked up his first ever Top 10 victory with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(2), 7-6(3) route into the quarter-finals over Felix Auger-Aliassime.

"Honestly it feels amazing. To be in the quarters, I wouldn't believe it if somebody told me this when I was on my way over here," said the world No.71, taking on Tsitsipas next, who defeated him 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 last season in Rotterdam.

Jiri Lehecka / Huitièmes de finale Open d'Australie 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

"I'll be super excited. I will go for that revenge, for sure," insisted Lehecka.

"He will know what my strengths are. He will feel that I can get him under the pressure. At the same time, I know that he's a great player, he's No. 4 in the world with some extraordinary tennis."

Pegula to make experience count

Jessica Pegula is relishing doubles in Melbourne, distracting her from the pressures of singles success.

On Sunday the No.1 American boosted her credentials with a 7-5, 6-2 scoreboard over 2021 Roland-Garros winner Barbora Krejcikova.

Third-seeded Pegula, a quarter-finalist at three different majors, feels its time for another stepping stone.

“I guess I feel more confident, I feel more experience being in this position. I have a great shot here,” mused Pegula.

“I think I'm playing probably playing the best I have in any of my other Grand Slam quarter-finals. That I think helps.”

The American will vie for a maiden major semi-final spot against the 2012-13 Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka. Under the Sunday night lights, the 33-year-old navigated past Zhu Lin 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.

Victoria Azarenka / Huitièmes de finale Open d'Australie 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Korda and Khachanov keep building

US Open semi-finalist Karen Khachanov demonstrated his Grand Slam pedigree once again, needing just 46 minuets to storm to the opening two sets versus Yoshihito Nishioka.

The No.18 seed refuted the Japanese star's comeback attempt, moving on 6-0, 6-0, 7-6(4) to book a last eight duel with Sebastian Korda.

The ice cool American broke new ground in the Grand Slam sphere, going down to the wire 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6[10-7] with No.10 seed Hubert Hurkacz.

"It's awesome. Was brutal, just had a big lead, then lost it, then just somehow managed to just pull through. It wasn't easy, but I'm very happy with the way that it ended," assessed Korda.

"Obviously the people that I have around me have helped me a ton. They got a lot of experience. Just trying to do the right things going forward. Everything's working so far, so it's great."