Caroline Garcia was knocked out of the Australian Open in the fourth round Monday by Magda Linette, becoming the latest top seed to suffer an early exit at the first Grand Slam of the year.
Poland’s Linette outfought the French world No 4 7-6 (3), 6-4.
The 45th-ranked Linette gave a sizeable contingent of red-and-white-clad Polish fans on Rod Laver Arena plenty to cheer, just 24 hours after they witnessed countrywoman and top seed Iga Swiatek being bundled out.
Linette, 30, had never before gone past the third round at the Australian Open in six previous attempts.
She was almost overcome after reaching her first Grand Slam quarterfinal after a match that lasted 1hr 57min.
“I don’t really believe it,” she said. “I still can’t believe it, I don’t know what happened.
“I’m speechless, really. I don’t know what to say.
“But I don’t want to say I didn’t expect it, because coming on the court I was confident in how well I’m playing,” added Linette, who has now knocked out the 19th, 16th and fourth seeds.
Garcia had endured a 2hr 10min battle just to get to the fourth round and avoid a massive upset against world No 158 Laura Siegemund.
But she started the first set well, breaking immediately, but the gritty Linette hung on and refused to lie down.
Garcia started to become more erratic and nerves kicked in as she served for the set at 5-4.
A double fault gave Linette a break-back point, the Frenchwoman saving it with a crosscourt winner.
But Linette was rewarded for her tenacity with a second chance and this time Garcia went long off a forehand.
In the tiebreak, Linette was again the more solid and took it with ease, tellingly committing just eight unforced errors in the entire set against Garcia’s mounting tally of 19.
“She’s such an amazing opponent, such a tough one, especially on the big stage,” said Linette.
“I’m just glad I stayed composed throughout the whole first set and managed to come back again.”
The second set was another tight affair, Linette grabbing the crucial break at 4-4 and serving out for one of the biggest wins of her career.
She will now face former world No 1 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic for a place in the semifinal after the 30th seed served 12 aces in a 55-minute straight-sets romp against Chinese veteran Zhang Shuai.
Sabalenka powers through
Fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka was unstoppable on Monday as she sprinted into her first quarterfinal at the Australian Open, blowing away Belinda Bencic with a brutal display of power hitting.
The Belarusian fifth seed won 7-5, 6-2 in 1hr 27min on Rod Laver Arena to set up a last-eight clash against Donna Vekic.
Sabalenka was troubled only once in the match, dropping her serve early in the first set to the Swiss 12th seed.
But she demonstrated her new-found mental steel, all too often missing from her game in the past, to calmly break back and take the initiative.
“My whole life, it took me a little while to understand that negative emotion is not gonna help you on court,” said Sabalenka, who reached the US Open semifinal last season but had never been beyond the fourth round at Melbourne Park before.
“You have to just stay strong and believe no matter what and then do everything you can.
“So just super happy with the mindset during the game today. Yeah, I did a wonderful job.”
Sabalenka and Bencic have both been on a roll this year in Australia and came into the first Grand Slam of the year as the form players.
They each won titles in Adelaide this month, both were yet to drop a set in Melbourne before the last-16 showdown, and both were on seven-match unbeaten runs.
The Belarusian had taken just 74 minutes to rip past her former doubles partner Elise Mertens in the previous round.
Bencic, of Switzerland, was just as dominant in her 6-2, 7-5 victory over Italy’s Camila Giorgi.
The pair exchanged early breaks in a high-quality first set which ended on a sour note for Bencic, who blinked first under relentless pressure from Sabalenka.
Serving at 5-6, Sabalenka hammered a forehand return winner past the Swiss to bring up two set points, only for Bencic to serve her fourth double fault and gift the advantage to her higher-ranked opponent after 52 minutes.
At 2-1 in the second, Sabalenka increased the intensity again, pummelling deep returns.
Bencic, no slouch herself when it comes to hitting a tennis ball hard, was forced into the retreat.
The Swiss again faltered on break point, this time serving her seventh double fault.
Sabalenka sensed the finish line approaching, powering down a fourth ace next game to extend her lead to 4-1.
The end soon followed, another forehand winner sealing a second break and the match.