World No.1 Iga Swiatek has been knocked out of the Australian Open in extraordinary scenes, going down to Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in a huge upset. Kazakh star Rybakina, who won her first major at Wimbledon last year, shocked the tennis world with a 6-4 6-4 win over Swiatek on Sunday.
The blockbuster clash got off to a bizarre start when the World No.1 was hit with a code violation before the match even started. Swiatek fell foul of rules around how long players are allowed before the end of the warm-up and the start of the match.
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Players are only allowed one minute after the chair umpire calls time before they have to serve the first ball. Swiatek was therefore hit with a time violation for taking too long, leaving her rather confused.
To her credit the Polish star didn't argue the call and got on with the match. However it may have left her slightly rattled.
Swiatek dropped her serve from 40-0 in the opening game, before falling in an early 0-2 hole. Rybakina went on to claim the first set 6-4 in a huge statement against the Australian Open favourite.
Swiatek and Rybakina then traded breaks in the second set before the Kazakh got the decisive one to go up 5-4. She then held her serve to seal the stunning upset victory.
The Russian-born Kazakh had never been past the third round at Melbourne Park. She will now play Jelena Ostapenko in the quarter-finals after the 2017 French Open champion upset seventh seed Coco Gauff just a few minutes later.
"It was a really tough match and I really respect Iga because of the streak she had at the grand slams," Rybakena said in her on-court interview. "She's a young player and she plays really well.
"Today I was serving really good, just struggling on one side but I think in the important moments I played really well so it made a big difference. I'm nervous every time I go out onto the court. It's a big win and I'm just happy to get through another round."
The extraordinary scenes left fans and commentators stunned, with Channel 9 commentator Sam Smith describing it as a 'devastating' performance from Rybakina. With Swiatek, Rafa Nadal, Ons Jabeur and Casper Ruud all knocked out, it marks the first time in the Open era that none of the top two seeds on the men's and women's sides have made the quarter-finals at a major.
Tennis fans fume over Australian Open scheduling
Tennis fans and commentators had earlier called out Australian Open organisers over some baffling scheduling for Sunday's matches at Melbourne Park. Many were left gobsmacked to learn the Swiatek-Rybakina match would take place at 12.30pm on Sunday afternoon, rather than in prime time at 7pm. It means the match got underway at 2.30am in Poland, where Swiatek has a legion of fans.
Stefanos Tsitsipas' showdown with Jannik Sinner was instead given prime time billing, followed by Victoria Azarenka's clash with Lin Zhu. But many felt Swiatek and Rybakina should have been given the top billing given the pair have four grand slam titles between them - three for Swiatek and one for Rybakina.
The Swiatek-Rybakina match commenced just half an hour before Gauff took on Ostapenko on Margaret Court Arena, making it a nightmare for women's tennis fans who wanted to watch both matches. Tennis journalist Gaspar Ribeiro Lança was among the many to bemoan the peculiar scheduling, tweeting: "Iga Swiatek vs. Elena Rybakina, the defending Roland-Garros & US Open champion & World No. 1 vs. the defending Wimbledon champion, will start at 12:30pm on Rod Laver Arena. Please explain, Australian Open."
Twitter account The Tennis Letter wrote: "Elena Rybakina is the reigning champ of the most important tournament in the history of tennis. Iga Swiatek is the most dominant world #1 we’ve had in years. They will not be primetime on Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open. Does anyone else see a problem with this?"
Others described it as 'disrespectful' and 'ridiculous' treatment of the women's stars. However some pointed out that Swiatek might have requested to play her matches in the day session rather than at night. While Australian Open organisers have previously said they don't give anyone preferential treatment, players are known to request what time slot they play in, especially if they're among the top-ranked players.
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