Australian Open women’s seeds continued a slow fade on Saturday, with No. 2 Karolina Pliskova and No. 5 Elina Svitolina the latest to stumble out of the third round.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova rose to the occasion as the Russian scored a 7-6(4), 7-6(3), knockout of Pliskova to move into the second week.
Former Roland Garros and Wimbledon winner Garbine Muguruza came to life after a poor 2019, defeating Svitolina 6-1, 6-2 with the Spaniard saving two break points as she served for the upset after 67 minutes.
The defeats mirrored those a day earlier of holder and third seed Naomi Osaka and seven-time winner Serena Williams.
The 30-ranked Pavlyuchenkova, who had lost all six previous matches in the one-way series, struck back to earn victory with 51 winners and 43 unforced errors as she defeated Pliskova.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m still in the match and focusing on the next point,” the Russian said.
“I was thinking that if I take one or two games on her serve that would be amazing because she is the ace queen on the tour so that was my goal.
“I was focusing on returning well – I also managed to hold on my serve too, so that helped.”
Pliskova came to Melbourne with the Brisbane title ans six straight match wins in her pocket; the Czech had lost only one career set against her rival in a series dating to 2015.
“I did a lot of errors, maybe not huge ones, but a lot,” Pliskova said. “”I was struggling with my serve.
“I was close in both sets, I’d say my level was about 40 per cent.”
Muguruza, with her 31 winners. beat Svitolina for the third consecutive time at a Slam in a head-to-head which began in 2012 between the pair.
“I was very concentrated on what I had to do, ” the 32nd-ranked Spaniard said. “Everything wen my way pretty fast. – I’ll take it.
“I played a very good match, I was able to disturb her game and take the match momentum to my side.
Muguruza came to Melbourne feeling under the weather and lost her first set of the week 6-0.
“You never know how things will go.I’m in the fourth round because of a big fight. There are a lot of ups and downs in a career.”
Number three Simona Halep made sure she avoided the upset bug with a solid 6-1, 6-4 win over 38th-ranked Kazakh Yulia Putintseva.
The reigning Wimbledon champion got down to business quickly, adding that she is not worried by the upset wave among her seeded peers.
“I’m not focusing on others, at this level everything can happen.
“It’s just a tournament, and I’m sure (media) are a little bit shocked when the Top 10 players lose.
“But this is life and we cannot be 100 per cent every day. If I’m still in the tournament, it’s a good thing.”
Anett Kontaveit produced a 6-0, 6-1 thrashing of Belinda Bencic in 49 minutes to add to misery for seeds, with the Estonian totally controlling the first-time match-up.
The Swiss finally won her only game after losing the first nine, coming through after 35 minutes of frustration.
But the relief was only temporary as Kontaveit finished off the demolition job, putting a winner into the open court for a second match point and advancing on a concluding Bencic error.
“I felt really good on court, everything I did worked really well,” the 31st-ranked winner said after reaching the fourth round for a second time with 21 winners and seven unforced errors..
“I’m so happy with that performance. I served quite well, played aggressive and did the things I wanted to do.”
Bencic did not know what hit her in the quick-fire loss: “There is not much you can do, you just try and fight. Obviously it didn’t work out for me today.
“I didn’t feel my best on the court, but she was playing really well. I was trying to hang in there, It didn’t work out well for me today,”
2016 champion Angelique Kerber defeated Italian Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-3 to set up a fourth-round meeting with Pavlyuchenkova, with that pair standing 7-7.
Kerber is into the fourth round here for the sixth time.
“It was a really tough battle,” the 32-year-old former No. 1 said. “I started well, but she came back strong.
“I was trying to move well, especially at the end of the third set. I kept fighting and believing in my game.
“It’s great to be into the second week here again. It’s always special to start the season in Australia and I always try my best.
“I’ll have a good day off and will look forward to playing my best tennis again.”
Teenager Iga Swiatek, who has not played since the US Open in August due to a stress fracture in her right foot, advanced past Donna Vekic 7-5, 6-3 and into a second Grand Slam fourth round for the 18-year-old.
Elise Mertens, a 2018 semi-finalist, defeated American Cici Bellis, coming back from two years of injuries, 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-0.