There goes the world No.2: seeds fall at Australian Open
THE women's upsets continue at the Australian Open, with world No.2 Karolina Pliskova and sixth seed Belinda Bencic both crashing out in the third round at Melbourne Park.
Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova snapped a run of six straight losses to Pliskova, ending the big-serving Czech's campaign with a shock 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-3) win on Rod Laver Arena.
Bencic then bombed out in a 6-0 6-1 capitulation at the hands of Estonai's Anett Kontaveit as Ashleigh Barty's title hopes continued to soar.
Pliskova was previously unbeaten in 2020, having won the season-opening Brisbane International and then two more matches in Melbourne.
But the second seed never looked comfortable in the hotter conditions on Saturday, throwing her racquet in disgust at one changeover and generally labouring about the court throughout the two-hour, 25-minute encounter.
Twice previously a quarter-finalist in Melbourne, including last year, Pavlyuchenkova scored her 33rd victory over a top-10 rival but her first against Pliskova.
"I am really happy," the tournament's 30th seed said.
"I know we always say we want to enjoy, but I did enjoy. I had goosebumps after some points.
"It was really nice to get a win and beat Karolina for the first time, it was amazing.
"Honestly, I was trying to think 'OK, if I take at least one or two games on her serve it would be amazing', because she serves so good.
"She is the ace queen on tour. That was my goal, to return well today."
While Pavlyuchenkova moves on to play Angelique Kerber for a quarter-final spot, Pliskova joins 2019 champion Naomi Osaka, seven-time winner Serena Williams and Bencic on the Open scrap heap.
Champion in 2016 and seeded 17th this campaign, Kerber earlier continued her quiet progression through the draw with a hard-fought 6-2 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 win over Italian Camila Giorgi.
The former world No.1 rued not being able to close out the match in the second-set tiebreaker, but was nevertheless thrilled to prevail after more than two hours of baseline grind.
"It was a tough battle," Kerber said after advancing to the second week for the sixth time in eight years.
"She really hits the ball fast and deep. So I was just trying to (keep) moving good, especially at the end of the third set.
"It's great to be in the second week in Melbourne again.
"It's still a long way. I have to get ready for the next one. To be ready to be fighting ... have a good day off tomorrow and then looking forward to playing my best tennis again."
Eyeing her her first grand slam quarter-final, Kontaveit will face either Croatian 19th seed Donna Vekic or unseeded Pole Iga Swiatek on Monday.
Fourth-seeded Wimbledon champion Simona Halep and fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina also play on Saturday.