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Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan celebrates after defeating Iga Swiatek of Poland during their fourth round match in Melbourne on Sunday. Image Credit: AP

Melbourne: Top seed Iga Swiatek was bundled out of the Australian Open fourth round on Sunday, with title threat Coco Gauff also exiting in tears, as a pair of underestimated Grand Slam champions tore open the women’s draw.

World No 1 Swiatek was sent packing by Elena Rybakina in the early match at Rod Laver Arena, the Pole falling 6-4, 6-4 to the Kazak Wimbledon winner, who started her tournament in the Melbourne Park wilderness of Court 13.

Rybakina shrugged off the scheduling snub before the fourth round showdown but used it as fuel in her first appearance on centre court as a tightly wound Swiatek slowly unravelled.

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Iga Swiatek of Poland reacts as she plays against Elena Rybakina during their fourth round match. Image Credit: AP

Under tremendous pressure

“I felt the pressure, and I felt that I don’t want to lose instead of I want to win,” said Swiatek, who dominated last season with two Grand Slam wins.

“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.”

The result means this year’s Australian Open will be the first Grand Slam tournament in the open era where the top two seeds in both the men’s and women’s singles draws have lost prior to the quarter-finals.

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Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko hits a forehand return to Coco Gauff in the fourth round on Sunday. Image Credit: AFP

Forgotten Ostapenko

Rybakina, the 22nd seed, might have expected to face Gauff in the quarter-finals but the much-hyped American teenager was upset 7-5, 6-3 by Jelena Ostapenko, the forgotten Grand Slam winner of women’s tennis.

The 2017 French Open champion thrashed 30 winners past Gauff on Margaret Court Arena, her last two sealing the match in style to leave the 18-year-old in tears at her post-match media conference.

“I feel like it was rough,” Gauff told reporters, before breaking down with emotion. “When you play a player like her and she plays really well, it’s like, you know, there’s nothing you can do.”

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Coco Gauff of the US in tears during press conference after losing to Jelena Ostapenko. Image Credit: Reuters

Latvia's lone champion

The win secured a first Australian Open quarter-final for hard-hitting Ostapenko, as well as the first at a major since her run to the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2018.

Latvia’s first — and only — Grand Slam champion stunned the world when she hoisted the trophy at Roland Garros as an unseeded 20-year-old.

She has had mostly lean years since but never doubted she would return to the spotlight again.

“My life changed a lot (after the 2017 French Open), so I needed a few years to really get used to what happened because I was really young,” she said.

“I always knew and believed in my game. If I play well, I can beat almost anyone.”

While the high seeds have tumbled, American Jessica Pegula has been rock solid and reached her third consecutive quarter-final at Melbourne Park by beating Czech 20th seed Barbora Krejcikova 7-5, 6-2.

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Victoria Azarenka celebrates her victory over China's Zhu Lin. Image Credit: AFP

Showing plenty of composure

Third seed Pegula will face 24th-seeded twice champion Victoria Azarenka, who fought back from a set down to beat Zhu Lin 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 and end the Chinese star’s impressive run.

Zhu, who beat sixth seed Maria Sakkari in the last round, started well and broke the 2012 and 2013 champion in the opening game before allowing her back, only to pull away from 3-3.

With the first set in the bag, world No 87 Zhu then came under pressure and Azarenka took the second set 6-1.

The Belarusian broke at 4-4 in the decider before showing composure to defend two break points and serve out for the win.