MELBOURNE – Caroline Garcia became the latest top-10 seed to fall at the Australian Open, with a shock defeat to Magda Linette, but Aryna Sabalenka blasted her way into the quarterfinals on Monday.
This is the first Grand Slam since the Open era began in 1968 to lose the top two seeds in both the men’s and women’s draws before the last eight.
There have been a series of surprise results at Melbourne Park and unseeded Pole Linette got in on the action with a 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 victory over France’s fourth-seeded Garcia.
The 45th-ranked Linette said that she “couldn’t believe it” as she reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final at the age of 30.
She faces Karolina Pliskova after the former world number one romped past China’s Zhang Shuai 6-0, 6-4.
Linette gave a sizeable contingent of red-and-white-clad Polish fans at Rod Laver Arena plenty to cheer, just 24 hours after they saw countrywoman and top seed Iga Swiatek bundled out.
“I still can’t believe it, I don’t know what happened,” Linette said.
“I’m speechless, really. I don’t know what to say.”
Belarusian Sabalenka never really looked like she would follow Swiatek, Garcia and the rest out of the first major of the year.
Along with third-seeded American Jessica Pegula, fifth seed Sabalenka looks the woman to beat. Both are chasing a maiden major crown.
Sabalenka defeated dangerous 12th-seed Belinda Bencic 7-5, 6-2 to set up a last-eight clash against unseeded Donna Vekic, who beat 17-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova in three sets.
Hard-hitting Sabalenka sprinted into her first quarter-final at the Australian Open and said: “My whole life, it took me a little while to understand that negative emotion is not gonna help you on court.
“You have to just stay strong and believe no matter what, and then do everything you can.”
‘ROLLERCOASTER IS EASIER’
In a men’s draw decimated by shocks, never-say-die fifth seed Andrey Rublev saved two match points to topple Danish teenager Holger Rune in a five-set marathon.
In a battle of two former junior world number ones, the Russian broke when Rune was serving for the match, then saved two match points before winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (11/9) in sapping heat on Rod Laver Arena.
He will face either nine-time champion Novak Djokovic, who is struggling with a hamstring injury, or Australian hope Alex De Minaur for a place in the semi-finals.
“It’s not like a rollercoaster, it’s like they put a gun to your head. A rollercoaster is easier,” said the exhausted Russian of the 3hrs 37mins epic.
Also into the quarterfinals after another gruelling clash in the heat is Ben Shelton, the unseeded 20-year-old American who is on his first trip outside the United States.
His dream run at the Australian Open gathered pace with a 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 victory over friend and fellow American JJ Wolf.
Shelton is only the fourth man in the past 20 years to reach the Melbourne quarterfinals on debut.
“I really focused in the fifth set, just being energetic, trusting my fitness and just hustling, being courageous and I thought I did a really good job of competing at the highest level in the fifth set,” said the 89th-ranked American.