AO 2023: Swiatek soars, Korda keeps composure 

 - Alex Sharp

The middle weekend is fast approaching and headline names keep on rising to the occasion at Melbourne Park.

Daniil Medvedev & Sebastian Korda / Troisième tour Open d'Australie 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

There were plenty of fuzzy heads at the Australian Open on Friday following the 4am finish from Andy Murray's early morning heroics.

Thursday night seamlessly drifted into Day five, with plenty of world class tennis entertaining the sun-kissed crowds. 

Grand Slam champions in grand match up 


World No.1 Iga Swiatek has clicked into top gear with impeccable timing. The Pole lost just six points in the opening set to steer past Cristina Bucsa 6-0, 6-1 in under an hour.

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

Heading into the second week the top seed with collide with Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina, who dismissed 2022 finalist Danielle Collins in three sets.

 "She really is a solid player. Since we played juniors, I knew that she's like kind of going the right direction. With her serve, she can do a lot," said Swiatek, before this brilliant anecdote from juniors.

"Yes, the final of Trofeo Bonfiglio on clay. I lost. I remember I was so stressed that there was a live streaming on Internet, and I just couldn't focus because of that. It seems surreal right now. I don't know who is watching me. It's on Internet. It's huge."

Kazakh Rybakina isn't shying away from the challenge of taking on the top seed.

"For sure she's very strong physically and mentally. I think that if I'm going to play my game, aggressive, I'm going to be solid from the beginning till the end, I have all the chances," stated the 23-year-old. 

"It doesn't matter which round I play because I think Iga is a great player. No matter what, the goal is to beat the top players. If it's first, second round, the goal is to improve throughout the year."

Coco and Pegula keep on producing 


Eight matches, 16 sets, Coco Gauff remains undefeated in 2023

The teenager excelled as the front runner to brush aside Bernarda Pera 6-3, 6-2 to book a last 16 duel with 2017 Roland-Garros winner Jelena Ostapenko.

Coco Gauff / Troisième tour Open d'Australie 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Gauff's doubles partner and world No.3 Jessica Pegula put in a similarly dominant display to line up a fourth round blockbuster with 2021 Roland-Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova

"I think when I'm playing on I can beat anybody. I feel very confident that my game is at a very, very high level right now," said Pegula, having taken down Marta Kostyuk 6-0, 6-2. 

"I definitely feel like now I can walk out there and I feel like I'm winning before I step out on the court. It's a weird feeling to have that because before I didn't feel like that. I've always wondered what that felt like."

Korda following in family footsteps


World No.31 Sebastian Korda, whose father Petr lifted the 1998 title on the same court, rubber stamped his progress with a 7-6(7), 6-3, 7-6(4) triumph to outmanoeuvre 2022 finalist Daniil Medvedev. 

"It was an unbelievable match. I knew what I had to do, stuck with it, even when I went up and down with the emotions. I'm thrilled right now, I played amazing," said an elated Korda, who also won the juniors title in Melbourne in 2018.

"Five years! I've grown up a little bit! I love playing in Australia, my family loves playing in Australia, we've had a lot of awesome moments here.

"My mum's career high (in tennis) was No.24, my dad was No.2, Nelly my sister was No.1 (in golf), my oldest sister Jessica was No.6 (golf). So I'm definitely the worst athlete in the family so far."

Korda, mentored by a certain Andre Agassi, will look to continue his best Australian Open campaign in the last 16 versus Hubert Hurkacz. The Pole denied Denis Shapovalov the comeback 7-6(3), 6-4, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3.

Sinner earns strike at Tsitsipas revenge 


Italy's Jannik Sinner continued the comeback trend at AO2023, dissolving Marton Fucsovics' two sets lead for a 4-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-0 road into the last 16. 

The 15th seed continues to fly under the radar, despite chalking up a sixth successive venture into the fourth round in Grand Slam play. 

As a result the 21-year-old has the chance to avenge his straight sets quarter-final defeat at the hands of Stefanos Tsitsipas at Melbourne Park last January. 

"For sure, I'm looking forward always for these kind of matches, knowing that he is one of the best players in the world," stated the world No.16. 

"But I've changed a little bit for sure my game. It's going to be hopefully a good match. This is what I practise for.'`

Around the grounds Felix Auger-Aliassime took his second week ticket in four sets against Francisco Cerundolo. The Canadian advances for an intriguing encounter with Czech youngster Jiri Lehecka.

The 21-year-old, who went 0-4 at the majors last season, let out a huge roaring celebration, reaching his first Grand Slam fourth round over five sets over the net from 11th seed Cameron Norrie. 

Karen Khachanov frequently becomes embroiled in lung-bursting marathons and Friday was no different. The powerhouse 18th seed prevailed in a pulsating fourth set tie-break to inch past Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(9). The world No.20 tops the men's draw with Yoshihito Nishioka awaiting. 

The Japanese left-hander has broken new ground in Grand Slams, rewarded for sending Rafael Nadal's conqueror Mackenzie McDonald out in straight sets.  

Zhu Lin cracked the code for a maiden move into a Grand Slam fourth round, stunning No.6 seed Maria Sakkari 7-6(3), 1-6, 6-4.

"I mean honestly, am I in a dream?" Said the tearing up world No.89.

"I have to believe in myself that I have the ability to be able to play at this high level. Who knows what's going to happen? You never know." 

Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka stands in her path next.