Melbourne | Shocked Swiatek felled…

19-year old Linda Noskova pulled off the biggest shock of the 2024 Australian Open when she felled the World No 1, Iga Swiatek, in the opening night match on Rod Laver Arena on Saturday, ending the Pole’s 18-match winning streak and putting the Czech into the Last 16 on her main draw debut at Melbourne Park.

For sure I was more stressed than in other tournaments, especially the first two rounds. But I think some things just didn’t work as they did before, even though I was working the same way. I feel like I did really everything I could in pre-season to improve some stuff that I wanted to. Then I came here, and I wasn’t playing kind of natural anymore. I don’t know, like my split step was too late sometimes, reaction a little bit slower, some other things. Iga Świątek

“I’m speechless,” Noskova said during her on-court interview. “I knew it was going to be an amazing match with the World No 1, such a player. I’m just really glad to get through this round.

“I was a little shaky [in the final game]. I didn’t hit two first serves, which was not the best start for me, but I pulled an ace [at 30-all]. It’s easier when you do that, but it’s tough sometimes to bring it at such a score.”

Tennis is a game of the finest margins, built on reputation founded on results, and nerve.

Staring down defeat after losing the first set, Noskova played fearless tennis, out-hitting the 4-time Grand Slam champion from midway through the second to move into the 4th-round, 3-6 6-3 6-4.

Ranked 50 in the world, the Czech looked composed throughout as she hammered down 35 winners past the top seed, while Swiatek, normally smooth as silk, stuttered and fell.

The result makes Noskova the first teenager to beat a World No 1 at a major since Petra Kvitova shocked Dinara Safina at the 2009 US Open, and she is the first to beat a player at the top of the rankings in Melbourne since 1999 when Amélie Mauresmo defeated Lindsay Davenport in the semi-finals at the age of 19.

The result is the earliest loss by a No 1 seed at the Australian Open since 1979, when Virginia Ruzici lost to Mary Sawyer in the 1st-round, and the first time since the tournament became a 128-player draw in 1988 that the top seed has not made the 4th-round.

19-year old Linda Noskova played fearlessly against top-seeded Iga Swiatek, and pulled off the upset of the Australian Open

© Phil Walter/Getty Images

It also marks just the second time that Swiatek has lost to a player younger than her at tour level, following Coco Gauff’s victory in the Cincinnati semi-finals last year, and only her second loss before the 4th-round in her past 14 majors.

All historical records Swiatek would prefer not to appear in, and, in her post-match press conference, she was still trying to process how the match had turned around.

“I felt like I had everything under control until she broke me in the second set,” Swiatek said. “I had couple of chances to break her in the second set, and I didn’t use them.

“I just wasn’t playing kind of with my intuition and naturally. I guess I’ll have to work on stuff to feel more comfortable next year.”

Despite the first set slipping away from her, Noskova had settled quickly in her first match on one of the world’s biggest stages.

The former Roland Garros junior champion reached the semi-finals in Brisbane in the lead-up to the first major of the year, had beaten fellow Czech and 31st seed Marie Bouzkova in the 1st-round, and soon showed exactly why she is considered one of the most exciting young players in the Top 50.

Noskova was the first to get a look at a break point when she had Swiatek at 15-40 in the 3rd game, but the 22-year old Pole survived, and raised the stakes in the 6th when she brought up a break point of her own, and converted for a 4-2 lead when a Noskova backhand dropped wide after a 4-deuce tussle.

The top seed wasted no time in testing Noskova at the start of the second, finding a screaming backhand return winner to pile on the pressure in the very first game.

Noskova, though, responded to losing the competitive opening set by raising her level, tidying up her game, while midway through the second set, Swiatek had chances to push for the finish line but couldn’t convert break points in either the 5th or 7th games.

Moving 4-3 up, the teenager turned the tables on the favourite, producing a brilliant point full of variety to bring up 3 break points, and struck a clean winner off a forehand return to get to a 5-3 lead, after which a comfortable hold to 15 sent the contest into a final set.

Iga Swiatek, sent packing early, has much to ponder after her loss to Linda Noskova on Day 7 of the Australian Open

© Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Noskova was the first to strike in the decider too, breaking for 2-1, only for Swiatek to respond immediately to level after the first 4 games.

With Swiatek serving at 3-3 and deuce, 2 costly misses off her forehand allowed Noskova to break her again, and the biggest win of her life became a very real possibility.

Serving for the match at 5-4, Swiatek found the back of Noskova’s baseline twice in the opening 2 points to leave the teenager at 0-30, but, as she had done all night, the 19-year-old steadied herself, hammered down an ace at 30-all, and sealed the upset win when the World No 1’s return sailed long off the first match point.

The deed was done after 2 hours and 20 minutes, and Swiatek was sent packing, rueing her lost opportunities.

“I know my game. I know that I have improved a lot in the last year and a half,” Noskova told reporters later. “I just believed my game tonight. I just really wanted this win because I didn’t really come to that court with the thought of, like, ‘I have nothing to lose.’ I took it very seriously.

“A lot of times I have played a Top 10 player, it was — let’s say 100% of the time — ‘I have nothing to lose and I’m just going to go there and try to play my best and we’ll see how it goes’.

“A few times I have beaten a great player, but it was maybe a fluke or something like that, let’s say, especially in my head. I didn’t go on court with 1000% trust and belief I can win the match. I just played good that day and it went my way.

“I felt like tonight I was actually a little stressed from the morning, which doesn’t really happen to me much often. I knew that it means a lot to me.”

Linda Noskova celebrates her win over Iga Swiatek, and takes on Elina Svitolina for a place in the quarter-finals

© Martin Keep/AFP via Getty Images

Swiatek had started the tournament with the toughest of draws, but was a straight-sets winner over former champion Sofia Kenin before staging a fine come-back to defeat 2022 runner-up Danielle Collins.

She came unstuck, though, against Noskova under the lights on Rod Laver Arena, and will have to figure out exactly why.

“I just wasn’t playing kind of with my intuition and naturally,” Swiatek told the media. “For sure I was more stressed than in other tournaments, especially the first two rounds.

“But I think some things just didn’t work as they did before, even though I was working the same way. I feel like I did really everything I could in pre-season to improve some stuff that I wanted to.

“Then I came here, and I wasn’t playing kind of natural anymore. I don’t know, like my split step was too late sometimes, reaction a little bit slower, some other things.”

Swiatek added that the tough opening matches had not hurt her.

“Physically I felt — honestly, I didn’t feel anything. So pretty good,” she said. “Mentally, as well, I felt like actually I came back in my match against Danielle, and I could, kind of, start over and not expect a lot, just try to play my game.”

Elina Svitolina defeated Victorija Golubic in straight sets on Saturday night at Melbourne Park, one of 3 Ukrainians to make it into the Last 16

© Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Swiatek’s loss leaves 12th-seeded Zheng Qinwen from China as the highest-ranked player and two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka from Belarus as the only past major winner in the top half of the draw.

Noskova will face Elina Svitolina on Monday, after the 19th-seeded Ukrainian beat Swiss Victorija Golubic, 6-2 6-3, later on Saturday night.

The former World No 3 was named 2023’s Comeback Player of the Year in last month’s WTA awards following her return from maternity leave, and she is bringing that momentum into the new season.

The 29-year-old is fresh off a run to the Auckland final and improved her 2024 record to 7-1 after striking 19 winners to beat Golubic for the second time in as many meetings.

The result means that Svitolina joins Dayana Yastremska and Marta Kostyuk to make it 3 Ukrainians in the Australian Open Last 16, an all-time Grand Slam record.

Svitolina advances to the second week in Melbourne for the 4th time and her first since 2021, facing Noskova for the first time.



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