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Teen dream: Noskova sends Swiatek packing

  • Lee Goodall

After a week of extraordinary tennis at Melbourne Park, another star was born on Saturday night as Czech teenager Linda Noskova produced the shock of the tournament to beat world No.1 Iga Swiatek.

MORE: All the scores from Day 7 at AO 2024

The 19-year-old played fearless tennis, outhitting the four-time major champion from midway through the second set to move into the fourth round 3-6 6-3 6-4. 

Noskova's maiden match at Rod Laver Arena ended with a huge upset

Making her Australian Open debut this week – and playing her first match at Rod Laver Arena – the youngster ranked 50th in the world looked composed throughout as she hammered 35 winners past the top seed.

MORE: AO 2024 women's singles draw

The result ends Swiatek’s 18-match win streak and puts Noskova into the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time. She will face Elina Svitolina on Monday, after the 19th seed beat Victorija Golubic 6-2 6-3 later on Saturday night.

“I’m speechless. I knew it was going to be an amazing match with the world No.1, such a player,” Noskova said during her on-court interview.

“I’m just really glad to get through this round.

“I was a little shaky [in the final game]. I didn’t hit two first serves which was not the best start for me, but I pulled an ace [at 30-all]. It’s easier when you do that, but it’s tough sometimes to bring it at such a score.”

From the start of the second set, Noskova started to use her backhand up the line on a more frequent basis, and the youngster gave credit to her team courtside for helping tweak her tactics to change the match.

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“It was teamwork,” she said looking over to her box. “Teamwork makes the dream work, right? They helped me a lot, they were supporting me and I’m really glad I can have this for all of us."

The result makes Noskova the first teenager to beat a world No.1 at a major since Petra Kvitova shocked Dinara Safina at the 2009 US Open, and she’s the first teen to beat a player at the top of the rankings in Melbourne since 1999.

In her post-match press conference, Swiatek looked like she was still trying to process and analyse exactly how the match turned around.

MORE: Swiatek "was more stressed than other tournaments”

“I felt like I had everything under control until she broke me in the second set,” Swiatek said. “I had couple of chances to break her in the second set and I didn't use them.

“I just wasn't playing kind of with my intuition and naturally. I guess I'll have to work on stuff to feel more comfortable next year.”

Swiatek looked on track after winning the first set, but Noskova had other ideas

Even though the first set ultimately slipped away from her, Noskova settled quickly considering it was her first match on one of the world’s biggest stages.

The former Roland Garros junior champion reached the semifinals in Brisbane in the lead-up to the first major of the year, had beaten fellow Czech and 31st seed Marie Bouzkova in the first round, and soon showed exactly why she’s considered one of the most exciting young players in the top 50.

Noskova was the first to get a look at a break point when she had Swiatek at 15-40 in the third game. The top seed survived, but it served as a warning for what was to come later in the evening.

The Pole raised the stakes in the sixth game when she brought up a break point of her own, and she converted for a 4-2 lead when a Noskova backhand dropped wide.

Midway through the second set, Swiatek had chances to push for the finish line but couldn’t convert break points in either the fifth or seventh games.

With Noskova ahead 4-3 and now striking the ball bigger than during the opening set, the teenager turned the tables on the favourite.

She produced a brilliant point full of variety to bring up three break points, and struck a clean winner off a forehand return to go ahead 5-3. A comfortable hold to 15 sent the contest into a final set.

Noskova was the first to strike in the decider too, breaking for 2-1 only for Swiatek to respond immediately to level after the first four games.

With Swiatek serving at 3-3 and deuce, two costly misses off her forehand meant Noskova broke again, and the biggest win of her life was now a real possibility.

Serving for the match at 5-4, Swiatek found the back of Noskova’s baseline twice in the opening two points to leave the teenager at 0-30.

But as she had done all night, the 19-year-old steadied herself, hammered down an ace at 30-all, and sealed victory when Swiatek's return sailed long on her first match point.