Melbourne | Sabalenka, Gauff and Kostyuk cruise as Krejcikova fights into AO quarters

Of the four women’s matches played on Sunday at the Australian Open, only Barbora Krejcikova was extended to 3 sets, while defending champion Aryna Sabalenka, Coco Gauff and Marta Kostyuk cruised into their quarter-final spots in barely over an hour apiece.

I'm super happy with the level, super happy with the win. I just tried to stay focused on my game, and just focus every single point. I want to stay here right until the very end and, hopefully, we can get this one again. She's a tough opponent. I'm super happy to see her back on tour. I'm pretty sure she'll be back on top very soon. I wish her all the best. Aryna Sabalenka

Gauff, the 4th seed, was the quickest, dispatching Magdalena Frech from Poland, 6-1 6-2, in 63 minutes, with Sabalenka needing only 70 minutes to see of Amanda Anisimova’s challenge, 6-3 6-2, and Kostyuk taking 72 minutes to stop Russian qualifier Maria Timofeeva’s run, 6-2 6-1.

Krejcikova, however, had her hands full with 16-year old Mirra Andreeva, but found her way past the precocious Russian, 4-6 6-3 6-3, after a battle that last one minute short of 2 hours.

There are just 6 of the original 32 seeds remaining in contention, and two of the highest are in this lower half, Sabalenka and Gauff.

Sabalenka, the reigning champion from Belarus, has been in dominant form since arriving in Melbourne, intent on retaining her title, and her ranking points.

On Sunday she swept past Anisimova, an American ranked 442 in the world, on Margaret Court Arena, but the 22-year old was always going to be a threat as she has been as high as No 21 and is only just now returning from a, 8-month sabbatical last year.

After Saturday’s early exit by the World No 1 Iga Swiatek, Sabalenka’s hopes of a second Grand Slam title have improved considerably, as she continues to keep her temperament under control to reach the Last 8 with the loss of only 11 games.

“I’m super happy with the level, super happy with the win,” said Sabalenka. “I just tried to stay focused on my game, and just focus every single point. I want to stay here right until the very end and, hopefully, we can get this one again.”

Anisimova showed enough to suggest she could be a Top 30 force again following upset wins over 13th seed Liudmila Samsonova and former World No 2 Paula Badosa this week, but against Sabalenka, she faced a marked step-up in standard.

“She’s a tough opponent. I’m super happy to see her back on tour,” Sabalenka said. “I’m pretty sure she’ll be back on top very soon. I wish her all the best.”

Aryna Sabalenka (R) defeated Amanda Anisimova in straight sets on Sunday, losing just 5 games to reach the quarter-finals

© Phil Walter/Getty Images

The Belarusian was not distracted by her relegation to the second show-court for the first time in the tournament, or by a couple of rain showers that interrupted the contest and forced the closure of the stadium’s roof.

Anisimova held a 4-1 lead in career meetings with Sabalenka coming into the match, but found the 2024 version of the 26-year-old Belarusian a much tougher nut to crack.

It was another pitch-perfect performance from the defending champion, who struck 18 winners and went unbroken for the 70-minute match.

In the opening set, Anisimova, a former French Open semi-finalist, was unable to win a single point off Sabalenka’s first serve, which, on occasion, was clocked at the 195 kph mark.

One break was enough for Sabalenka to win the opening set, and another to start the second stanza killed off any hopes the American had of building pressure on her opponent.

Another break for 5-2 allowed Sabalenka to serve for the match and, although Anisimova finally managed to earn her first break point, the 2nd seed was soon celebrating her spot in the Last 8.

Sabalenka, who will meet 9th-seed Krejcikova for a place in the semi-finals, did not drop a set at last year’s Australian Open until the final when she landed her maiden Grand Slam title.

Her opponent on Rod Laver Arena that day, Elena Rybakina, exited in the 2nd-round, leaving Gauff and Krejcikova as the only other Top 10 seeds left in the field.

“About Barbora, we played a lot of matches,” Sabalenka said. “She plays really well. I think she’s coming back after injuries, so also super motivated. Always tough battle. It’s going to be great battles, doesn’t matter who I’m going to face.

“I think I feel stronger than last year. I don’t know. So far I feel good. Hopefully I just can keep it up,” she added. “I thought I would feel differently after winning Grand Slam. It’s no different. You still feel the same. You still have to bring your best tennis. You still have to fight for it.”

Barbora Krejcikova used all her grit to get past 16-year old Mirra Andreeva in 3 sets to make the Last 8 in Melbourne

© Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

For the second time in her career, Krejcikova has reached the AO quarters after her come-from-behind win over Andreeva in Sunday’s 4th-round.

Andreeva had beaten Krejcikova twice in 2023, at Wimbledon, via retirement, and in Beijing, and looked to be on course to do so again after winning the last 3 games of the first set.

For the third time this fortnight, though, the former Roland Garros champion clawed her way back from behind to a 3-set victory, striking 32 winners during the match at John Cain Arena to reach the quarter-finals in Australia for the first time since 2022, and her first appearance in the Last 8 of a major since then.

After winning her first Grand Slam singles title in Paris in 2021, she also reached the quarter-finals of the US Open later that year.

Coco Gauff cruised to her first AO quarter-final with an easy win over Magdalena Frech on Sunday

© Maya Thompson/Getty Images

With all the talk about the youngsters achieving their career break-throughs at AO 2024, it is easy to forget that Gauff is still a teenager because she behaves like a tour veteran these days.

The reigning US Open champion feels she has much to prove yet, and she is well on track to doing so in Melbourne where she achieved another milestone at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday, with a straight-sets win over Frech taking her into the quarters here for the first time.

After a brilliant display of power and purpose, Gauff thanked the great Rod Laver himself, and other tennis legends, for attending the match.

She also explained the ‘you can change the world with your racquet’ inscription on her personally branded shoes.

“[It’s] something my dad told me since I was a little girl, and the inspiration of why I always feel like it’s important to speak up,” said Gauff “Sometimes I’m just looking at my shoes and [it’s] just a reminder that life is much more than tennis and how I do out here on the court, it doesn’t define me as a person… everything that I do on the court is a plus to my life. I have all that I need and this is just all extra.”

Gauff is now a winner of 11 straight Grand Slam matches, launched her season by winning the title in Auckland, and has only dropped a single set in the process, which was against Elina Svitolina in that final.

The 19-year old American was in command from start to finish against 26-year-old Frech, who had taken a wildly contrasting path to reach the Last 16 at a major for the first time.

Frech’s wins in Melbourne, over Daria Saville, Caroline Garcia and Anastasia Zakharova, were all extended 3-set battles, with the Pole requiring more than 8 hours of court time to come through.

Gauff had dropped only 13 games in her wins over Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, Caroline Dolehide and Alycia Parks, spending less than 4 hours on court.

The teenager stamped her authority early on against her 69th-ranked opponent, dropping just 3 points on serve as she ran away with the 26-minute opener.

Although Frech subsequently extended both the rallies and her service games, she never seriously challenged as Gauff completed her win with a stunning backhand cross-court winner on her 2nd match point, 1 of her 21 winners, compared to the 7 struck by Frech.

In her 18th main-draw campaign at a major, and her 5th in Australia, Gauff is the youngest player to reach the AO women’s singles quarter-finals since an 18-year-old Agnieszka Radwanska in 2008.

“[My] first Aussie quarter-final. Super happy to be in this position and be here,” said Gauff. “I think I had three fourth rounds. It’s cool to get over that hump. Hopefully I can keep going for more.”

Marta Kostyuk dismissed qualifier Maria Timofeeva in 76 minutes and will meet Coco Gauff in the Last 8

© Kelly Defina/Getty Images

Gauff’s next opponent, Kostyuk, who is 21 years of age and ranked 37, broke through to the Last 8 with a comfortable win over qualifier Timofeeva in Kia Arena on Sunday.

One of the best-ranked unseeded players, Kostyuk has also taken the long way round into this fortnight’s Round of 16, going 3 sets in each of her first 3 matches, and saving a match point in her 2nd-round upset win over No 25 seed Elise Mertens from Belgium.

Everything came together for the Ukrainian in Sunday’s match, though, as she swept past Timofeeva in an hour and 16 minutes of action, successfully shaking off a 40-minute rain delay, which came just 2 games into the contest.

Kostyuk, who had her breakout Grand Slam debut when she made the AO 3rd-round as a 15-year-old in 2018, had no issues winning her 2nd Round of 16 match at a major, having previously posted a Last 16 result at 2021 Roland Garros.

On Sunday, Kostyuk won 47% of her return points, converted 21 of 29 points at net, and saved all 4 break points she faced en route to her maiden Grand Slam quarter-final.

She becomes the second Ukrainian to reach the quarters in Melbourne, after Elina Svitolina 2018 and 2019, and is one of the 3 remaining in the women’s draw, alongside Svitolina and Dayana Yastremska, who play their Last 16 matches on Monday.



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