MELBOURNE, Jan 21 — French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova said her rivals should be “scared” after pulling off a  gritty comeback win against Jelena Ostapenko on Friday at the Australian Open.

The Czech fourth seed was one of the standout players of 2021, winning three titles as she soared up the rankings to her current world number four.

Her expectations were high coming into the opening Grand Slam of the year, but she was in trouble at 2-6, 1-3 down to the 2017 Roland Garros winner, before fighting back to clinch the match on Rod Laver Arena 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

It set up an attractive fourth-round clash with two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, who swept past Elina Svitolina for the loss of just two games.

“I hope they are scared of me,” said the 26-year-old Krejcikova.

“But, I mean, I don’t really know. I think in the locker room we have a really respectful atmosphere, each of us. I hope they see me that they don’t want to play me.”

Krejcikova beat Ostapenko last year in Dubai, the tournament that truly began her singles ascent, but it was the Latvian 26th seed who started strongly in Melbourne, getting an early break to take a 4-1 lead on a scorching day.

She outpaced the Czech in winners and made far fewer unforced errors to take the first set, and looked on course for a big scalp after breaking Krejcikova in the second set for a 3-1 lead.

But the Czech broke back twice to take the match into a decider, where her first-serve percentage improved and error count diminished, breaking Ostapenko early to set up the win.

“I feel really proud with the way I was able to handle the match even I was losing and I was really down,” she said. “During the match I was just pretty much saying to myself, ‘Just keep going, just try to stay close, try to hold your serve, try to play.’

“Playing Rod Laver in singles, it’s very special, a very special match. I was just telling to myself to stay here as long as you can.” — AFP