Iga Swiatek has put her Australian Open rivals on notice with a stunning third-round demolition described as 'brutal' by tennis fans and commentators. The World No.1 swept aside Cristina Bucsa 6-0 6-1 on Friday to march into the fourth round in just 55 minutes.
The Polish star is the red-hot favourite to win a fourth career major at Melbourne Park, although in-form American Jessica Pegula is lurking as the dark horse. Pegula thrashed Swiatek 6-2 6-2 at the United Cup earlier this month, reducing the World No.1 to tears in the process.
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“The most important part of Iga Swiatek is that she’s very reliable now,” tennis great Mats Wilander said on Eurosport on Friday. “There’s a certain style of player that cannot beat her. If you don’t hit the ball hard, you cannot beat Iga Swiatek. And it’s nearly becoming [like this] on every surface so that’s got to be such a good feeling.
“When you’ve watched someone like Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal over the years, you realise early in grand slams – ‘ok, this guy cannot be Rafa, there is no chance’. And I think Iga is setting that tone. Half of the locker room, or maybe even more, kind of think ‘well, I can’t do anything. I can’t hurt her’.”
Swiatek will next face Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in a mouth-watering fourth-round clash. Rybakina has been slowly working her way through the draw and beat 13th seed Danielle Collins 6-2 5-7 6-2 on Friday.
Jessica Pegula looms as threat to Iga Swiatek
Swiatek and Rybakina were joined in the fourth round by fellow big guns Pegula, Barbora Krejcikova, Coco Gauff and Jelena Ostapenko on Friday. Pegula and former French Open champion Krejcikova will now face off in another blockbuster fourth-round clash.
Pegula hasn't dropped a set so far this tournament and barely raised a sweat as she dispatched Marta Kostyuk 6-0 6-2. The American third seed needed just an hour and five minutes to see off her Ukrainian opponent.
Krejcikova has been flying under the radar in her bid to complete a rare Australian Open title double. She easily beat another Ukrainian in Anhelina Kalinina 6-2 6-3 on Friday.
Czech star Krejcikova, currently ranked 23rd in the world, has been as high as No.2 and won all four grand slam doubles titles. She won the French Open singles title in 2021 and reached the quarter-finals at the Australian Open last year.
"Obviously, I've watched her quite a bit," Pegula said. "She's had a great couple of years, obviously last year she was a little bit hurt. It seems like she's finding her confidence again.
"I actually don't think I've ever played her in singles, just in doubles. So I have a little bit of an idea but I'll definitely have to watch some more of her matches."
Krejcikova suffered an elbow injury last year and a dip in form at the grand slams. However she regained her form at the end of 2022 and is also yet to drop a set at the Australian Open.
"Everything is improving. I think with every single match I'm getting better and better," she said. "I'm really happy with the way I'm winning so far."
Meanwhile, American seventh seed Gauff advanced with a 6-3 6-2 win over compatriot Bernarda Pera. She will next face Ostapenko, who beat Kateryna Baindl 6-3 6-0.
But Collins, Maria Sakkari and Madison Keys were all eliminated in major upsets. Sixth seed Sakkari suffered a shock 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-4 loss to Zhu Lin of China, while Keys (10th seed) was beaten 1-6 6-2 6-1 by two-time champion Victoria Azarenka.
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