The Coco Gauff story in singles came to a close Sunday at the Australian Open. The 15-year-old sensation was taken down by countryman Sofia Kenin 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-0 in an all-American fourth round encounter.
The spunky Kenin, best known for upsetting Serena at the French last year, broke the teen early but the lead wouldn’t last long. As Gauff often does, she came back on a tightening Kenin, forced a tiebreak and watched her opponent nervously double fault twice to drop the opener.
Kenin managed to regroup perfectly and jumped out on Gauff again, and this time she wouldn’t give in. Behind a variety of drop shots and measured attacks to the weakening Gauff forehand, Kenin cruised to victory blanking the youngster in the decider to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
“I’m just so speechless, I’m so happy,” said Kenin. “It was such a tough match. She had a great 2019. All respect to her, she played a great match. In the first set, she played some really good points at crucial moments.
“I just did the best I can, tried to take it like any other match. I tried to play my game, not focus on anything else,” she added. “It means a lot – so happy to be through to the next round.”
Despite seven double faults in the match, Gauff has to be pleased with her first Australian Open in which she blew out the defending champion.
“I’m definitely going to savor this and continue to kind of build and get better to work for moments like this, moments like that last match,” Gauff said. “Even today, even though I lost, I still had a lot of fun. I mean, now looking back, I’m not as disappointed anymore.”
“Even though I double-faulted today a lot, but my serve is definitely better,” she said. “I think my return is better. I think I moved forward. I’m happy with how I moved, transitioned, like the baseline to the net. I’m happy how I’ve been doing that this week. It’s something I want to continue to improve on for my next tournaments.”
Gauff and friend Caty McNally are still in the doubles draw.
Kenin won’t be the only surprise in the last eight. The 75th-ranked Ons Jabeur is next after the 25-year-old became the first player from Tunisia to reach a Slam quarterfinal following her win over Qiang Wang 7-6(4), 6-1. Wang, who shocked Serena in the last round, went up 4-1 early before Jabeur got back into it.
“I liked that the court was slow,” Jabeur said. “Gave me more chance to play my game, mix it up little bit. Obviously second set was amazing for me. I was really relaxed. I tried to play my game. I’m happy that I went through.”
In the first match of the day, Petra Kvitova came from a set down to defeat a very tough Maria Sakkari 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-2.
“It’s pretty tough to play Maria,” Kvitova said. “I knew it was going to be difficult. Suddenly I got used to her game a little bit.”
The 2-time Wimbledon champion moves on to face World No. 1 and Australian favorite Ash Barty who held off Alison Riske 6-3, 1-6, 6-4.
“Alison is not just a tough opponent for me, she’s a tough opponent for every single girl on the tour,” said Barty. “She has the ability to adapt her game, to make the opponent uncomfortable. I think she’s got a great tennis brain of problem solving, as well.”
Kvitova beat Barty in the Australian quarters last year.
Tomorrow, Simona Halep returns to meet former semifinalist Elise Mertens. 2016 champion Angelique Kerber collides with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, teen Iga Swiatek faces Anett Kontaveit and Garbine Muguruza hooks up with Kiki Bertens.
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