Teenager Linda Noskova stuns world number one Iga Swiatek at Australian Open

By Sports Desk January 20, 2024

Teenager Linda Noskova blew the women’s draw wide open at the Australian Open by stunning world number one Iga Swiatek in the third round.

There are no top-10 seeds left in the top half after 19-year-old Czech Noskova came from a set down to claim a 3-6 6-3 6-4 victory on Rod Laver Arena.

Swiatek had dug herself out a major hole in the second round against Danielle Collins but she was unable to repeat the trick here.

“Physically, I didn’t feel anything,” said Swiatek. “Mentally, as well, I felt like actually I came back in my match against Danielle and I could kind of start over and not expect a lot, just try to play my game.

“I would say that I wasn’t returning overall in this tournament the same way as usual, especially the second serves.

“But still, I know that I did everything I could to try to make it work. Technically it didn’t work. But I know I did everything I could. I have no regrets.

“For sure I wish I could have played a little bit better in this tournament.

“I just want to get back to work. I know I’m going to have plenty of chances during the season to show my game.”

The never-ending production line of Czech female talent is one of the wonders of tennis, and 19-year-old Noskova is at the head of a new generation.

Ranked 50 but set to rise rapidly, she showed superb maturity to turn the match around after losing the first set, hitting 10 aces in a tally of 35 winners.

Swiatek speculated that Noskova would feel she had nothing to lose, but the teenager denied that, saying: “I know my game. I know that I have improved a lot in the last year-and-a-half. I just believed my game tonight.

“I just really wanted this win because I didn’t really come to that court with the thought of ‘I have nothing to lose’. I took it very seriously. It was like a match as any other. I just know that, when I’m going to be aggressive, I can play with anyone.”

She is the first teenager to beat a world number one at the Australian Open since Amelie Mauresmo defeated Lindsay Davenport in 1999.

Noskova next plays 19th seed Elina Svitolina, who was a comfortable 6-2 6-3 winner over Viktorija Golubic and will fancy her chances of reaching a first grand slam final.

So, too, will 12th seed Zheng Qinwen, who is the highest-ranked player left in the top half and is making waves, 10 years on from Li Na’s historic triumph.

Zheng needed two hours and 40 minutes to make it past countrywoman Wang Yafan 6-4 2-6 7-6 (8) on Friday as China took centre stage in the day session on Rod Laver.

But her power hitting eventually got her over the line and there was a special treat after the match when she was congratulated by Li, who is here to play in the legends event.

“That was totally a surprise for me,” said Zheng. “She just went to me, say congratulations. I was feeling super happy to meet her and have the chance to talk with her because I never talked with her in person.

“She said to me ‘don’t think too much, just keep (it) simple’. I think that’s – right now – what I need to do as well.”

Zheng revealed in her on-court interview that she had watched Li’s final victory over Dominika Cibulkova here in 2014 10 times.

Li remains the only Chinese winner of a grand slam singles title having become the first Asian champion when she claimed the French Open crown in 2011.

There is a growing number of Chinese players, both men and women, pushing towards the top of the game, but Zheng is at the head of the queue.

In the last 16, she will take on Oceane Dodin, who defeated fellow unseeded French player Clara Burel 6-2 6-4 to reach the fourth round at a slam for the first time.

One of Zheng, Dodin, 26th seed Jasmine Paolini and Russian Anna Kalinskaya is guaranteed to make a first slam semi-final.

Paolini ended the run of Anna Blinkova, who knocked out Elena Rybakina in round two, while Kalinskaya beat former finalist Sloane Stephens 6-7 (8) 6-1 6-4.

It is turning into an excellent tournament for Ukraine, with Dayana Yastremska joining Svitolina and Marta Kostyuk in the last 16, thanks to a 6-2 2-6 6-1 upset of 27th seed Emma Navarro.

She next faces two-time former champion Victoria Azarenka, who is again looking strong in Melbourne and came from 2-5 down in the second set to beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-1 7-5.

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