Swiatek shunted out of Australian Open, Alcaraz breaks new ground

January 21, 2024 12:23 pm

[Source: Reuters]

World number one Iga Swiatek crashed out of the Australian Open at the hands of Czech teenager Linda Noskova in the third round to further deplete an already weakened women’s draw heading into the second week at Melbourne Park.

While only three of the top 10 women’s seeds remain, the main contenders for the men’s title have all breezed into the fourth round with Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev joining the charge on day seven.

Swiatek’s bid for a maiden title at Melbourne Park was brought to an abrupt halt when 19-year-old Noskova became the first teenager to down the top seed since Amelie Mauresmo beat Lindsay Davenport in 1999.

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Noskova held her nerve after Swiatek had won the opening set, and on the big points in the third set, and only let emotions get the better of her after serving out for a 3-6 6-3 6-4 victory.

“I think it was an unbelievable match for me,” the world number 50 said. “Playing on such a court for a first time, playing with Iga for a second time, I really wanted to win this, so I’m just glad that I did it.”

Four-times Grand Slam champion Swiatek said she would have to analyse where she had gone wrong but was confident she could reset for the rest of the season.

“For sure I wish I could have played a little bit better in this tournament,” said the 22-year-old Pole. “I guess I’ll have to work on stuff to feel more comfortable next year.”

Alcaraz earlier reached the fourth round for the first time when Chinese teenager Shang Junchen pulled up injured while trailing in their uneven contest 6-1 6-1 1-0.

The second seed still had time to show off the skills that have already won him two Grand Slam titles and gave himself a decent rating out of 10.

“I’m feeling great. Probably seven, eight,” said the 20-year-old. “It’s a high score, but that’s how I feel. Every match that I’m playing, I’m feeling better and better.”

Daniil Medvedev, who had needed five sets to beat Emil Ruusuvuori in a second-round match that concluded in the early hours of Friday morning, made short work of Felix Auger-Aliassime with a 6-3 6-4 6-3 victory.

“Physically today was very tough,” said the third seed, twice a losing finalist in Melbourne.

“I want to try to go again to the final, try to have my chance of winning another Grand Slam. Just want to show good tennis, beat good guys, and hopefully get one more title.”

Sixth seeded German Zverev also went through in straight sets after a 6-2 7-6(4) 6-2 win over American Alex Michelsen in the final match of the day.

While Shang fell short in his bid to become the first Chinese man to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam since 1938, the country will have a presence in the second week after Zheng Qinwen beat compatriot Wang Yafan 6-4 2-6 7-6(8).

The 21-year-old received a surprise visit after the match from compatriot Li Na, who was the first Chinese player to win a Grand Slam and triumphed at Melbourne Park in 2014.

“I watched that final 10 times,” said the 12th seed. “She said, ‘Don’t think too much, just keep it simple’.

I think that’s what I need to do right now.”

Zheng next plays Oceane Dodin after she prevailed in an all-French duel with Clara Burel 6-2 6-4.

French wildcard Arthur Cazaux joined Dodin and Adrian Mannarino in the last 16 with a breezy 6-3 6-3 6-1 win over Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor to extend his Melbourne Park debut.

He will next meet the similarly big-serving ninth seed Hubert Hurkacz, who kept Poland’s flag flying with a 3-6 6-1 7-6(4) 6-3 win over Ugo Humbert.

Britain will also have a representative in the second week after Cameron Norrie ousted 11th seed Casper Ruud 6-4 6-7(7) 6-4 6-3 to reach the fourth round for the first time.

Nuno Borges became only the second Portuguese player to reach the second week of a major when he battled back to beat Grigor Dimitrov 6-7(3) 6-4 6-2 7-6(2) and set up a meeting with Medvedev.

Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska will return to the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time since Wimbledon 2019 after her 6-2 2-6 6-1 win over Emma Navarro.

She next faces Victoria Azarenka, who battled back from 4-1 down in the second set to beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-1 7-5 in a battle of former Grand Slam champions.