Sebastian Korda, 1998 Australian Open champ Petr's son, reaches quarterfinal

Swiatek, Gauff stunned in fourth round



USA's Sebastian Korda reacts after winning against Poland's Hubert Hurkacz. -- AFP
USA's Sebastian Korda reacts after winning against Poland's Hubert Hurkacz. -- AFP

By AP

Published: Sun 22 Jan 2023, 2:06 PM

This was not a smooth ride for Sebastian Korda at the Australian Open on Sunday. An early deficit against a higher-seeded opponent. Some so-so serving. An up-and-down fifth-set tiebreaker filled with mistakes by both players.

At the end — the very end — it was Korda, a 22-year-old American, who earned a spot in his first Grand Slam quarterfinal by taking the last trio of points to edge No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7).

“Those are the toughest points to win ... those last three there,” said Korda, whose father, Petr, won the 1998 championship in Australia. “They’re brutal in a way.”

The younger Korda has made it a point to reach out and tap signs marking the titles won by his dad and by mentor Andre Agassi in the hallway leading to the court in Rod Laver Arena.

“Every single time I walk by, I always give ... a little fist bump," Korda said. "Kind of makes me feel like they’re with me, in a way. I always know that they’re watching. They’re both very special for me. They helped me a ton.”

Korda’s mother was a professional tennis player, too, and his two older sisters play pro golf. They've been following the guy they call “Sebi,” via TV from the United States during the Australian Open, despite the 16-hour time difference between the East Coast and Melbourne.

“I just got off the phone with them,” Korda said about his parents. “They’re going to try to go to bed.”

This victory followed up a third-round win for Korda against 2021 US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, the runner-up at Melbourne Park each of the past two years.

The 29th-seeded Korda will face 18th-seeded Karen Khachanov for a spot in the semifinals. The other quarterfinal on the top half of the bracket will feature unseeded Jiri Lehecka against No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas or No. 15 Jannik Sinner.

Korda was one of four American men to get to the fourth round, along with Ben Shelton, J.J. Wolf and Tommy Paul — who all play Monday — the most for the country in Australia since four made it in 2004.

“It's awesome,” Korda said. “We’ve got a great group coming up. I think we can do some special things in the next couple years.”

Khachanov, a semifinalist at last year's US Open, eliminated Yoshihito Nishioka 6-0, 6-0, 7-6 (4) earlier Sunday. Lehecka arrived in Australia with an 0-4 career record in Grand Slam matches, but he is now in the quarterfinals after beating No. 6 Felix Auger-Aliassime 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3).

“I’m sure we will see a lot of him in the future,” Auger-Aliassime said.

Swiatek, Gauff dumped out

Top seed Iga Swiatek and a tearful Coco Gauff both crashed out in straight sets in the last 16 on Sunday.

Swiatek's defeat to Elena Rybakina makes it the first Grand Slam in the Open era -- since 1968 -- to lose the top two seeds in the men's and women's draws before the quarter-finals.

There was no such trouble for Jessica Pegula, however, the American third seed surging into the last eight with a 7-5, 6-2 win over former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova.

Wimbledon champion Rybakina swept past the 2022 French and US Open winner Swiatek 6-4, 6-4 in 1hr 29min at a stunned Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.

Moscow-born Kazakh Rybakina, seeded 22, moves on to a last-eight encounter with Jelena Ostapenko.

The Latvian 17th seed provided the second upset of a crazy few minutes by knocking out seventh seed Gauff 7-5, 6-3 on neighbouring Margaret Court Arena.

The 18-year-old Gauff broke down in tears during an emotional post-match press conference.

World number one and hot favourite Swiatek admitted that Rybakina deserved to win.

"I felt the pressure," Swiatek, 21, said. "I felt that I didn't want to lose instead of wanting to win."

Swiatek, who dominated women's tennis last year and is already a three-time major champion, added: "I felt today that I don't have that much left to fight even more.

"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 follows second seed Ons Jabeur out the Melbourne exit door, the Tunisian having gone out in the second round in another surprise.

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