Jessica Pegula hits a return against Barbora Krejcikova

Melbourne (AFP) - Jessica Pegula surged into the Australian Open quarter-finals in straight sets on Sunday, but warned there was “still a long way to go” to win the title despite Iga Swiatek’s exit leaving her the woman to beat.

The American third seed is the highest-ranked player left in the women’s draw after beating former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova 7-5, 6-2 in 1hr 41min.

Elena Rybakina’s victory over Swiatek means the top two seeds in the men’s and women’s singles are out before the quarter-finals for the first time since the Open era began in 1968.

Pegula will face either 24th seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, or China’s Zhu Lin for a place in the semi-finals.

Pegula, 28, has never made it to a Grand Slam semi-final before, and didn’t regard herself as the Australian Open favourite.

“I look at the draw and there’s still Jelena (Ostapenko) – she won the French Open. You have Rybakina, who won Wimbledon last year,” she said.

“You have Vika (Azarenka), who does really well here and Caroline (Garcia) won the WTA Tour championships,” said Pegula.

“It doesn’t really feel like I’m the highest (player) left, even though I guess that’s a cool stat.

“It feels like there’s still a long way to go, to be honest.”

But, with seven of the top 10 women’s seeds already knocked out before the second Monday of the tournament, Pegula accepted this could be her big chance.

“I mean, I have a great shot here,” she said. “I’ve been playing the best I have than in any of my other Grand Slam quarter-finals.”

Pegula had an incredible 18 break-point opportunities across the two sets, mostly in the first, so was frustrated not to have clinched the win sooner.

“I had a few choice words towards my box in the first set,” she laughed.

“But I was able to get it out and I’m pretty relaxed in general, that’s just my personality, but I also think that’s how I perform best.”

Pegula hit 20 winners to her opponent’s 19, but crucially only made 20 unforced errors to Krejcikova’s 36 as she reached her third quarter-final in a row at Melbourne Park.

“I think my win today will give me a lot of confidence,” she said.

“But, again, it’s always a new day, a new match, new conditions, new everything. You never know how you’re really going to feel.”