World number one Iga Swiatek said he felt the pressure and needed to “cool down” after crashing out in the last 16 of the Australian Open on Sunday.
Qutb came into Melbourne Park as a red-hot favorite for the year’s first Grand Slam, but was beaten in straight sets by Wimbledon winner Elina Rybakina at Rod Laver Arena.
Switek, 21, admitted she was overwhelmed by expectations as her dream of a fourth major crown — but a first in Australia — was shattered.
“Well, for sure, the last two weeks have been pretty tough for me,” a frustrated Switek told reporters.
“I felt today that I didn’t have much left to fight anymore,” he said.
“I felt like I took a step back in terms of how I approach these tournaments, and I probably want it a little too hard.
“So I’m going to try to be a little more cool.”
Moscow-born Kazakh Rybakina, whose power game proved too much for the usually rock-solid Svitek, now faces Jelena Ostapenko in the quarter-finals.
The Latvian 17th seed provided a second upset within minutes of knocking out Koko Goff 7-5, 6-3 at neighboring Margaret Court Arena at Melbourne Park.
Switek dominated women’s tennis in 2022 following the retirement of last year’s Australian Open champion Ashley Barty, at one point becoming the 37-match unbeaten woman everyone wants to beat.
“I felt the pressure,” admitted Switek. “I realized I’d rather not lose than win.”
The 6-foot-tall (1.82 m) Rybakina always seemed to be in control of the match, especially once her first serve, one of the fastest in the women’s game, was ready.
“Elena was the one who was more solid today and I felt like it was more about who was getting more pressure, and she did that very well,” Switek said.
22nd seed Rybakina hit six aces to Switek’s two and fired home 24 winners to Poole’s 15.
“She served, you know, like she usually does,” Switek said.
“I wanted to put it back on him, but on my service games I felt like I really needed to work, really hard to get any points because my first serve wasn’t working.”
Switek said she will look to recapture her 2022 form.
“Definitely I need to work on my mentality and fight a little bit more, like I did last season,” he said.
“It will take time for me to reset at this point.”