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Australian Open: Surprise Swiatek defeat opens up women's draw

Number one seed Iga Swiatek was knocked out of the Australian Open early on Sunday morning in straight sets by Elena Rybakina meaning it is now anyone's guess as to who will take the title in Melbourne.

The Polish superstar has been the standout player in women's tennis for the past year and was victorious in both the French Open and US Open in 2022.

However, she could not make it three in four Slam titles as she was ultimately outclassed by Rybakina, who arrived into the tournament as the number 22 seed.

A scoreline of 6-4 6-4 to the Kazakhstan player summed up an excellent display and now there are several possibilities as to who could win the tournament as it enters the latter stages.

Rybakina will now feel like she has a chance of going all the way as she prepares to face Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the quarter-finals. Rybakina is priced at 4/9 is and Ostepenko is 7/4 for the win.

WhatAustralia Open Women
WhereMelbourne Park, Melbourne
WhenMonday 16th January - Sunday 29th January 2023
How to watchEurosport, discovery+ and bet365's Sports Live Streaming
OddsJessica Pegula 3/1, Elena Rybakina 10/3, Aryna Sabalenka 7/2, Caroline Garcia 6/1, Belinda Bencic 10/1

Below-par Swiatek caught out

At 21 years old, Swiatek has pretty much become the dominant force in women's tennis and has been at the summit of the world rankings for nine months since the shock retirement of Ashleigh Barty, not long after her Australian Open win last year.

The Australian's exit from the sport meant the opportunity was open for someone to become the flag bearer for the women's game and Swiatek took the chance with both hands, helped by an impressive winning streak of 37 games - the longest on the WTA Tour in the 21st century.

Despite that success, she was unable to hit the heights in Melbourne and Rybakina was excellent in the two-set victory.

She did arrive into the tournament having enhanced her own reputation in 2022 by her win at Wimbledon in July and played confidently on the big stage, dispelling pre-match predictions that she would lose following a run of just 14 wins in her last 24 games.

Rybakina took the first set in confident fashion, although Swiatek upped the intensity in her bid to respond and went 3-0 up in the second set.

The Kazakh player's hefty serve caused big problems for Swiatek though and, quick as a flash, the second set was back to 3-3. 

In the end, the Wimbledon champion had rediscovered her composure to break for 5-4 before serving out to win the match, and she is now the 10/3 second favourite for overall glory.

With Ons Jabeur also knocked out in the second round to Czech player Marketa Simkova, the field is now wide open with the pairing in next Sunday's final far from clear.

Pegula assumes top billing

By virtue of the world rankings, Jessica Pegula is the 3/1 favourite heading forward now with the American set to play two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals.

The 28-year-old Pegula has reached several Grand Slam quarter-finals in the last few years and is hoping to make a first stride into the last four with a win against the experienced Belarusian in her next game.

Aside from strong performances in the majors, she has also been consistent on the tour, winning the Guadalajara Open as well reaching a smattering of quarter and semi-finals on the WTA tour.

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She will have to overcome Azarenka who is the 24th seed and looking to roll back the years.

Azarenka is a two-time winner Down Under but the second of her back-to-back successes came in 2013, while her career high of being world number one had ended a year previously.

However, the now-33-year-old has put on some encouraging performances, including her three-set comeback win over another American in Madison Keys.

Garcia and Sabalenka aiming for Major breakthrough

French star Caroline Garcia and Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka are ranked fourth and fifth respectively with neither yet having won one of the four Grand Slam titles available. 

However, they will both feel that this year could be their best opportunity to break their ducks with Sabalenka priced at 7/2 to win the title in Melbourne, with Garcia on offer at 6/1.

The pair are in the arguably weaker bottom half of the draw and are set to face each other in the last four, if everything goes their way.

Garcia has won four titles since last June, including the WTA Finals with victory over Sabalenka in the final, meaning she may have the slight psychological advantage if they do meet,

She will also be facing unseeded Magda Linette in the last-16 round and will expect to get the job done.

Sabalenka faces a tough test against world number 12 Belinda Bencic, who has been as high as fourth in the rankings, although she is expected to progress at 8/13, with the Swiss ace on offer at 13/10.

The winner of that tie though would fancy their chances of taking the next step against either of Donna Vekic or Linda Fruhvirtova - neither of whom are seeded or have great experience at Grand Slam level.

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