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Elena Rybakina Stuns World No. 1 Iga Swiatek in Australian Open Upset

: Elena Rybakina (L) of Kazakhstan shakes hands with Iga Swiatek of Poland after winning the fourth round singles match during day seven of the 2023 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 22, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

A crackling return rocketed right back at Iga Swiatek’s feet leaving her dancing from its damage.

The world No. 1 tried to stay in step, but Elena Rybakina ripped jolting returns to sweep Swiatek right out of the Australian Open.

Playing with powerful poise, Rybakina stunned the top-seeded Swiatek 6-4, 6-4 to charge into the Australian Open quarterfinals for the first time.

It is Rybakina’s first career win over a world No. 1 and marks the first time in the Open Era the top two men’s and women’s top seeds failed to reach the AO quarterfinals.

“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.”

Afterward, Swiatek said Rybakina outplayed her—and suggested she may take a break to reset.

“Well, for sure Elena was the one that was more solid today, and I felt like it was more about who is going to put more pressure on the open end, and she did that pretty well,” Swiatek said. “So, yeah, it was just tough. But for sure I need to work on my, I don’t know, kind of mindset and fight a little bit more as I did last season. “So, for sure I’m going to take time right now to kind of reset.”

No. 22-seeded Rybakina will face former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko for a semifinal spot.

The 17th-seeded Ostapenko banged 30 winners and saved seven of eight break points conquering Coco Gauff 7-5, 6-3 for her first Melbourne Park quarterfinals. Ostapenko has beaten Rybakina in both prior meetings winning all four sets they’ve played.

“She hits really hard, and she plays aggressive like me,” Rybakina said of Ostapenko. “So for sure I need to be really focused on my serve because today on one [sunny] side I was struggling a bit.

“It’s not easy if my weapon is not going. But no matter what, I think it’s going to be tough battle like the previous matches. We see how it’s going to go.”

Exuding easy power and calm confidence, the Wimbledon champion made this 89-minute triumph over the reigning US Open and Roland Garros champion look relatively routine.

The serve and return are the two most important shots in the sport and Rybakina was commanding in both areas using the quicker Rod Laver Arena court to rush Swiatek.

The 6′ Rybakina won 80 percent (24 of 30) first-serve points and faced just four break points. Rybakina used her wide wing span to cut off the angles and slam returns down the line. Knowing Swiatek likes to hit her forehand from the backhand corner, Rybakina blasted her backhand down the line at times and generally denied the two-time Roland Garros the rhythm she craves. 

Despite her damaging weapons and almost detached demeanor on court, Rybakina said nerves were churning throughout.

“‘I’m nervous every time I go on the court, like every point,” Rybakina said. “My coach says I need to show emotion sometimes. I’m also learning. For sure, I’m nervous and it’s a big win and I’m just happy to get to another round.”

The fact Rybakina showed no visible trace of nerve against a dominant No. 1 who won 47 matches and five titles on hard courts last season had to be unnerving for Swiatek.

Serving for the quarterfinals, Rybakina had a frustrated Swiatek screaming into her hand after failing to fight off a body serve.

On match point, Swiatek didn’t move when Rybakina served her wide and rolled a final forehand winner.