New York | Ostapenko dethrones Swiatek

Reigning US Open champion and World No 1 Iga Swiatek was de-throned late on Sunday night  by her nemesis Jelena Ostapenko, while earlier in the day Coco Gauff stopped Caroline Wozniacki’s run, Karolina Muchova outlasted Xinyu Wang and Sorana Cirstea upset Belinda Bencic, all in the Last 16.

There were some key moments in the second set. When I won it, especially the first game in the third set when I broke her, I felt, like, it's going more my way. I started to feel my game better. I put her under the pressure, of course, because I was hitting quite many winners, and she didn't like the power I was giving her because she needed some time to play. Jelena Ostapenko

Day 7 proved to be of historic importance as Swiatek’s early 3-6 6-3 6-1 exit in the last match on Arthur Ashe Stadium not only ended her campaign to defend her title, but also gifted her No 1 ranking to Aryna Sabalenka after 75 weeks of dominance by the 22-year old Pole.

Ostapenko, the No 20 seed from Latvia, had beaten Swiatek 3 times before, although all these encounters came before the Pole reached the World No 1 ranking in April 2022, but she clearly has her measure.

In fact, Ostapenko was the last player to defeat Swiatek before she took over from Ash Barty at the top of the rankings when she beat her in the Last 16 in Dubai that year, and, ironically, her win on Sunday now brings an end to the 4-time Grand Slam champion’s reign.

“I always expect a tough battle against Iga,” Ostapenko said afterwards. “She’s won many Slams and she plays very consistent.

“I just went on court and I had to play aggressive because that’s what she doesn’t really like. In the third set, I stepped more in the court and I was serving better.”

Swiatek is renowned for her bagels, but it looked like Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion, would win the final set 6-0 as she broke three times to lead 5-0.

Although the Pole got on the scoreboard by claiming one break back, the damage had already been done, and the Latvian got the job done in an hour and 48 minutes, keeping her hopes of winning a second major alive with her first-ever 3rd-round win at Flushing Meadows.

“There were some key moments in the second set,” Ostapenko said. “When I won it, especially the first game in the third set when I broke her, I felt, like, it’s going more my way. I started to feel my game better.

“I put her under the pressure, of course, because I was hitting quite many winners, and she didn’t like the power I was giving her because she needed some time to play.”


Iga Swiatek's skills deserted her in the third set against Jelena Ostapenko on Sunday night

© Corey Sipkin/AFP via Getty Images

Swiatek had been dominant in her previous wins over Rebecca Peterson, Daria Gavrilova, and Kaja Juvan, losing just 9 games, and her subsequent loss has left the Pole baffled.

“She plays well against me. I mean, I don’t have any comparison because she always did that,” Swiatek said. “But I’m just surprised that my level changed so drastically because, usually, when I play bad, I play bad at the beginning, then I, kind of, catch up, or just problem solve. This time it was totally the opposite.

“I don’t really know what happened with my game. I felt no control suddenly. I just have to watch and see ’cause, yeah, I didn’t really know why I started making so many mistakes.”

Swiatek went into Sunday night having won just one set in the 3 meetings against the big-hitting Latvian, and, ahead of the match, she was confident that her evolution since then, particularly on hard courts, could flip the script.

“With Jelena, it’s a little bit, like, one day she can play a perfect match, and just put everything in even though she’s really risking, and the other day can be different,” Swiatek said. “You never know what to expect, but I, kind of, accept that all these players they are going to play the best tennis against me.”

The match began with Swiatek immediately losing her serve, but she managed to break back in the next game, and, at 3-2, she secured another to maintain the lead on serve to take the first set.

Ostapenko had played aggressively, attacking both the first and second serves, attempting winners, and managing to hit 12 of them, but she also made 9 unforced errors, which cost her dearly in the crucial moments, while Swiatek capitalised on the Latvian’s second serves, winning 78% of those points.

Swiatek had out-gunned Ostapenko from the baseline in the 39-minute opener, but the Latvian responded immediately in the second, breaking her in her opening service game and consolidating for a quick 3-0 lead.

Solid defence from the Pole and 2 double-faults from Ostapenko gifted a break back to the 4-time Grand Slam champion, attempting to level the match, but the Latvian reclaimed the break in the following game and eventually secured the set.

Although Swiatek had got herself on the board after Ostapenko pushed her first drop-shot attempt of the night into the net, the Latvian was settling into a comfortable rhythm on her service games, and had now doubled up in the winners column, firing 10 winners to go 4-1 up in the set, to the Pole’s 1, while, more importantly, she was reducing her errors.


Jelena Ostapenko now has a 4-0 winning record over Iga Swiatek after beating the 22-year old in the Last 16 at the US Open

© Elsa/Getty Images

“She’s a great player and she’s very, very consistent, especially last few years,” Ostapenko said. “I also knew she would have all the pressure because she’s, obviously, No 1.

“I was just trying to make it hard for her, and to play my game, and to fight until the very last point.”

Serving to take the match into a third set, Ostapenko fended off a break point with a good kicking second serve that elicited a wide return, and, with that, matters went into the decider after a brisk 80 minutes of play.

Having now found the perfect balance of disciplined offence, Ostapenko broke Swiatek in the opening game and consolidated for a 2-0 lead as the third set turned into a nightmare for the Pole, who now struggled to counter the Latvian’s aggressive shots.

Swiatek’s forehand began to leak more errors, just as Ostapenko was hitting her stride with precise shot-making to force the miscues from the Pole, and she sensed her chance.

Applying more aggression, Ostapenko broke again for a double-break lead at 3-0, which she protected with ease as she closed out the affair after 108 minutes.

Ostapenko finished the match with 31 winners to 20 unforced errors, and broke her opponent 7 times, while Swiatek hit 18 winners to 18 miscues as her current 33-match win streak when she won the first set at a Grand Slam came to an end.

Swiatek also struggled with her service, winning only 30% of points with her first serve, and just 29% with the second.

“Usually I’m not looking at numbers, but overall I love them,” Swiatek reflected. “I would love to, like, extend this record a little bit longer. This is something that, when I was younger, I actually, kind of, wanted to break some record or have something.

“I already did that ’cause I already won a Slam as a first Polish player. Obviously being No 1 as the third player in history is great, but, for sure, when it happens, when you lose it, there are some sad emotions.

“All these great players know it’s going to come back if you’re going to work hard, focus on the right things, just develop as a player.”

Meanwhile, leaving Swiatek to ponder, next up for Ostapenko is American 6th seed Coco Gauff, who beat wild-card Caroline Wozniacki in 3 sets earlier in the day.


Iga Swiatek's run at the US Open came to premature end on Sunday in the 4th-round

© Corey Sipkin/AFP via Getty Images


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