Melbourne | Swiatek survives Collins scare, as Burel upsets Pegula

Top seed Iga Swiatek found a way to fend off Danielle Collins in 3-set thriller that lasted over 3 hours to open play on the Rod Laver Arena on Thursday, but Jessica Pegula, the World No 5, was upset by Clara Burel to become the highest seed to crash out of the Australian Open in the day session.

You're not going to lie to yourself, obviously, that you're losing 4-1. The only thing you can do is just try again. At that point, you kind of know that you may lose. You can actually relax a little bit more because you know that, Okay, probably I'm going to lose, so I don't care anymore. Then it's easier. Sometimes it works like that. Iga Świątek

Collins came from a set and a break down to lead Swiatek, the World No 1, by a double-break at 4-1 in the 3rd set before the 22-year old Pole came roaring back to take 5 games in a row and clinch the match, 6-4 2-6 6-4, after a 3 hour 14 minute 2nd-round battle.

“I was in the airport already!” admitted Swiatek after surviving the huge scare. “I wanted to fight until the end. I know she played perfectly, but it would be hard for anyone to keep that level, so I wanted to be ready when mistakes were going to come from the other side, and punish them.

“I did in the end, and I’m really proud of myself because it wasn’t easy. I felt like I had momentum going, then she suddenly started playing two times faster.

“I had no idea how to react to that for a couple of games, but I came back and thought ‘the only thing I can focus on is myself’. I stopped caring about how she played and focused on myself.”

After the match, the 30-year-old American announced that the 2024 Hologic WTA Tour season would be her final year on tour.

“Yeah, this is going to be my last season, actually, competing,” Collins told reporters. “I don’t really know exactly when, but this will be my last season, and I’m really looking forward to that.

“I feel like I’ve had a pretty good career. There has certainly been ups and downs to it, and I think the travel and some of the things away from the court with scheduling and all of that, this is a really tough sport.

“I have other things that I’d kind of like to accomplish in my life outside of tennis, and would like to be able to have the time to be able to do that. Obviously having kids is a big priority for me.”

Former AO finalist Danielle Collins used her aggressive backhand to great effect but could not get past Iga Swiatek on Rod Laver Arena

© Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

The opening 6 games were shared until rain arrived in Melbourne at 15-15 on Collins’ serve, which forced play to be suspended as the roof on Laver was closed, and the court towelled off,.

Swiatek found the decisive break in the 9th game to go 5-4 up, and held serve to take the opening set before breaking immediately at the start of the second.

Two years ago, Collins had overwhelmed Swiatek, 6-4 6-1, in the semi-finals to advance to her first Grand Slam final at the Australian Open, and she almost pulled off the upset again.

“I lost 6-4 in the third to one of the best players in the world, and she played some great tennis,” Collins said. “Left it all on the court. Her game and her career speaks for itself.

“I think we all know what to expect against Iga. I had to try to counter that as much as I could, I did that well at many moments. Other moments, it got away from me.”

Collins had other ideas as she stared down the barrel of defeat and, somehow, she managed to shift the momentum in the second set as she rattled off 5 consecutive games to go 5-1 up before levelling the match.

After the set break, Swiatek returned to the court with a black band below her left knee, and Collins pounced.

With Swiatek struggling to find the length on her forehand, Collins earned two break points at 1-1, 15-40 with a clean backhand return winner.

She broke two points later with the exact same shot, a devastating return that put her in the lead. Collins raced to a 4-1 lead after breaking Swiatek for a second time in the set.

The American continued to pile on the pressure, and secured herself a double break to ensure the upset was on the cards.

With the match seemingly out of her grasp, Swiatek slowed things down, and methodically began her march back, breaking to love after Collins double-faulted, and then saved 3 break points to hold to 4-3.

With Collins now leaking more baseline errors, Swiatek put herself back on serve with yet another break, before holding at love to lead 5-4.

The Pole grasped the win on her 3rd match point in one of most dramatic contests at this year’s Australian Open so far.

Swiatek finished the match with 36 winners to 35 unforced errors, though just 9 of those errors came in the final set, while Collins struck 28 winners to 37 miscues, but broke the Pole’s serve 6 times.

“You’re not going to lie to yourself, obviously, that you’re losing 4-1,” Swiatek said later. “The only thing you can do is just try again. At that point, you kind of know that you may lose. You can actually relax a little bit more because you know that, Okay, probably I’m going to lose, so I don’t care anymore. Then it’s easier. Sometimes it works like that.

“But it doesn’t change the fact that I just kept trying. I kind of accept that I’m not going to only have these motivational and positive thoughts. When I go and start the rally, well, I hope most of the time I have the same kind of intensity.”

Iga Swiatek came from 1-4 down in the decider to beat Danielle Collins after a 3 hour 15 minute 2nd-round thriller

© Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The victory extended Swiatek’s active win streak to 18 consecutive matches, the second-longest win streak of her career, and she is now the 6th player since 2000 to achieve multiple streaks of 18 WTA-level wins after Serena Williams, Justine Henin, Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Lindsay Davenport.

Swiatek will face the Czech Republic’s Linda Noskova, after the 19-year old advanced to her first 3rd-round at a Grand Slam by defeating McCartney Kessler, an American wild-card, 6-3 1-6 6-4, in an hour 53 minutes.

Collins may have seen her ranking drop to No 62, but she channeled her Top 10-level tennis to keep the result in the balance, up until the late stages of the match.

Coming off a 3-set victory over Angelique Kerber in the 1st-round, the American had lost her last 3 encounters with Swiatek, which all came last season, and she executed her game plan to perfection on Thursday for most of this latest contest.

“At this point, you know, I’m kind of at the end of my career and they don’t sting quite as much, to be honest,” said Collins of the final set loss to Swiatek. “I feel like I have kind of gotten to the point where obviously they matter and, you know, my career means a lot to me, but the end of the day, you know, you either win or you lose, and that’s all there is to it.”

Clara Burel (R) upset Jessica Pegula, dominating the 5th seed in straight sets on Margaret Court Arena on Thursday afternoon

© WILLIAM West/AFP via Getty Images

Pegula’s fate was sealed on Margaret Court Arena, where France’s Clara Burel notched up the first Top 10 win of her career, shocking the World No 5 seeded American, 6-4 6-2, in 70 minutes.

The 22-year old, ranked 51, edged the first set and commanded the second to reach the 3rd-round at a Grand Slam event for the 4th time in her career, but this is her first appearance there in Melbourne.

“I think I played a very solid performance today,” Burel said after her win. “I was really focused. Yeah, I didn’t let her come into this match. Very solid, and I’m really happy about this match today.”

The upset win guarantees an unseeded Frenchwoman in the Round of 16, as Burel’s next opponent will be her compatriot Oceane Dodin, who reached the first Grand Slam 3rd-round of her career by defeating Martina Trevisan from Italy, 6-4 6-4.

It will be the first meeting between the two.

“I just saw that we [have] three [French women] in the third round,” Burel said. “It didn’t happen since a few years. So yeah, it’s really nice to see everyone playing well.”

Burel, who held the Junior World No 1 ranking in 2018, had previously been 0-5 against Top 10 opposition.

“I didn’t play much [against the] Top 10, so it’s definitely my best win of my career,” Burel said.

Thursday’s result ends a run of excellent AO performances by Pegula, the 29-year-old American having been a quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park in each of the last 3 years, and is still 13-5 lifetime at the event.

The tight first set went the way of Burel after she prevailed in a 3-deuce game to break Pegula for the one-set lead, the Frenchwoman striking 13 winners in the opening frame, compared to just 4 by the American.

Pegula took an early 2-0 lead in the second set, trying to pull herself back into contention, but Burel quickly got herself back on track, then reached triple break point at 3-2 with a stirring down-the-line winner, eventually breaking for 4-2.

Burel never let up from there, winning the last 6 games in a row, the French No 3 finishing the match with 8 more winners and 5 fewer unforced errors than Pegula.

Sloane Stephens upset No 14 seed Daria Kasatkina in 3 sets on Thursday

© Phil Walter/Getty Images

In other early results, Sloane Stephens, the former US Open champion, upset Daria Kasatkina, the Russian 14th seed, 4-6 6-3 6-3, after 2 hours and 6 minutes on John Cain Arena; while fellow American Emma Navarro, the No 27 seed, saw off Elisabetta Cocciaretto from Italy, 4-6 6-3 6-3; Jasmine Paolini, the 26th-seeded Italian, defeated Germany’s Tatjana Maria, 6-2 6-3; Swiss Viktorija Golubic outlasted Czech Katerina Siniakova, 6-3 2-6 6-4; Ukrainian Daria Yastremska was a comfortable 6-3 6-2 winner over Varvara Gracheva from France; Russia’s Anna Kalinskaya beat Arantxa Rus from the Netherlands, 6-1 7-5, and Oceane Dodin from France, stopped another Italian, Martina Trevisan, 6-4 6-4.



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