Tearful Coco Gauff and Iga Swiatek knocked out as top seeds desert Australian Open

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

A frustrated Coco Gauff broke down in tears after her 7-5 6-3 defeat by Jelena Ostapenko at the Australian Open on Sunday, with the 18-year-old saying she just could not come up with the answers to the Latvian's game.

Gauff came into the tournament having enjoyed a superb 2022 where she reached the French Open final but it was former Roland Garros champion Ostapenko who dominated the contest to set up a quarter-final meeting with Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.

“I think every loss is somewhat in my control because I do feel like I'm a good player, but today she just played better,” Gauff, who knocked out Emma Raducanu in round two, told reporters.

“There were moments in the match where I was getting frustrated because I normally can problem solve but today I feel like I didn't have much answers to what she was doing.

“There were balls I was hitting deep and she was hitting them on the line and hitting them back deep, like, over and over again. It's just one of those days that just didn't go my way and went her way.”

No7 seed Gauff began to tear up when asked to explain her frustrations.

“I think it's because I worked really hard and I felt really good coming into the tournament and I still feel good,” Gauff said. “I still feel like I've improved a lot. But when you play a player like her and she plays really well, it's like there's nothing you can do.

“So it's a little bit frustrating on that part.”

Swiatek downed in historic moment

It all came so seemingly easy for Iga Swiatek last season — two Grand Slam trophies, eight titles overall, a 37-match winning streak, a lengthy stay at No. 1 in the rankings.

Those accomplishments made everyone else expect constant greatness from Swiatek, which she can't do anything about. They also changed the way she approached big moments, and a 6-4, 6-4 loss to Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the Australian Open's fourth round Sunday made Swiatek wonder whether she needs to reassess her outlook.

“I felt like I took a step back in terms of how I approach these tournaments, and I maybe wanted it a little bit too hard. So I'm going to try to chill out a little bit more,” Swiatek said. “I felt the pressure, and I felt that 'I don't want to lose' instead of ‘I want to win’.”

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So there will not be a showdown between Swiatek and No. 7 seed Coco Gauff in the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park. Instead, it will be Rybakina taking on 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, a 7-5, 6-3 winner against Gauff, with a semifinal berth at stake.

“I kept her under so much pressure,” Ostapenko said.

Add Swiatek's loss to Week 1 exits by Ons Jabeur, Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud, and this Australian Open marks the first Grand Slam tournament in the Open era — which began in 1968 — with the top two women's seeds and top two men's seeds all gone before the quarterfinals.

In other women's action Sunday, No. 3 Jessica Pegula got to the quarterfinals in Australia for the third year in a row by defeating 2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova 7-5, 6-2, and awaited the winner of the night match between two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and unseeded Zhu Lin.

In the men’s draw, unseeded Czech Jiri Lehecka toppled sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime 4-6 6-3 7-6(2) 7-6(3) to reach the quarter-finals.

Stefanos Tsitsipas survived a compelling five-set battle with Jannik Sinner to reach the quarter-finals.

For two sets he appeared in control against Sinner, seeded No15, but the wheels began to come off in the third and his opponent, who remarkably took only four of the 26 break points he created, fought back to level with some terrific power tennis.

Sinner, who lost an epic five-setter to Carlos Alcaraz in the US Open quarter-finals, seemed to have the momentum, but he lost his way at the wrong moment and Tsitsipas thrilled the many Greek fans packed into Rod Laver Arena by completing a 6-4 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-3 victory after exactly four hours.

Additional reporting by AP and Reuters.