Melbourne dawns to a surprising rhythm, the one that happens at the Rod Laver Arena at the opening of the day is loud. Or maybe not so much. Away from the media spotlight, Elena Rybakina has been proving for some time that she has the qualities to be an important player and after winning Wimbledon in July, the Kazakh leaves another golden sparkle in Australia. She is relentless, she exasperates and melts (double 6-4) Iga Swiatek, the undisputed number one. The Pole revolts, but finds no solution to deactivate the offensive proposal that reduces her and dispatches her, although the throne that she has defended since March –she has more than 5,000 rental points on Jabeur, the immediate pursuer– is not in any danger. She concedes 24 game-winners, an avalanche of lashes. That is to say, the tournament loses the big favourite, which is accompanied by a second, the American Coco Gauff. In her case, the pitch is even louder and bears the signature of Jelena Ostapenko (7-5 and 6-4).
The 25-year-old Latvian is another of the many emerging figures who appeared suddenly and then lost their wings too quickly. In 2017, at just 20 years old, she dazzled at Roland Garros. She and her enormous power in hitting – with peaks of up to 117 kilometers per hour, higher than that of many men and close to that of gunners like Thiem (135), Wawrinka (130) or Nadal (127) – shook the great Frenchman , but the episode was left in a flash. The following year she reached the Wimbledon semifinals and from there, she lost all vigor on the big stages. Since then, she has three trophies (Dubai in 2022, Eastbourne in 2021 and Luxembourg in 2019) and a bland tour in the majorswhere the defeats in the first rounds have been a constant.
Now it’s back to being noticed. With force, of course. She came Gauff for the title with strength and determination, the American convinced that this is the year in which she must take the big leap; however, she suffered the rain of winners (30) from Ostapenko’s deck, who in the quarterfinals will meet another puncher, Rybakina. You know, today, history goes fast. She rewards the power of the Latvian and also the Kazakh, born 23 years ago in Moscow and who at the beginning of last summer caused a stir at Wimbledon, for her triumph and for the fact that the great British had vetoed Russia and Belarus. “I can only say that I represent Kazakhstan, and people there believed in me. I did not choose where I was born, ”she said with the tray in her hands, but without the 2,000 points that are awarded as a reward because the management of the All England Club decided so for the matter of war.
With endless arms and legs that allow her to cover the track with just a few strides, Rybakina pushed the all-powerful Swiatek out of the way, who somehow, since taking the helm, deals more with herself and her circumstances than with anything else. Self-demanding to the extreme, she got desperate and ended up paying for it. Double champion in Paris (2020 and 2022) and the US Open (2022), she continues to resist the Antipodes even though she reached the semifinals last year and has multiplied her game on cement. “She has done very well, but I have to work on my mentality and relax a little more, maybe she wanted it. [el título] too; I feel that I have taken a step in approaching these tournaments. I felt the pressure and I have focused more on not losing than on winning”, laments the Polish in an excellent starting point to improve: the number one does not allow looking for excuses abroad.
LEHECKA, THE MALE SURPRISE
AC | Melbourne
The Czech Jiri Lehecka, 21, has become the surprise of this edition in the men’s draw along with Ben Shelton and JJ Wolf, two other upstarts –quoted this morning–. This Sunday he defeated Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2) and 7-6 (3), and will face Stefanos Tstitsipas (6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6 and 6-3 to Yannik Sinner). After eliminating Borna Coric in the premiere and Cameron Norrie in the third season, Lehecka (71st in the world) has managed to filter into the eight strongest.
Sebastian Korda has also done it, who defeated Hubert Hurkacz 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 1-6 and 7-6 (10) and reached the penultimate round of a major for the first time. The American, 22 years old and 31st on the ATP list, will face the Russian Karen Khachanov, who burned the Japanese Yoshihito Nishioka (6-0, 6-0 and 7-6(4); he will play a quarterfinal for the third time after those of Roland Garros in 2019 and those of Wimbledon in 2021.
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