Fourteenth seed Sofia Kenin stopped Coco Gauff on her tracks in their all-American fourth-round clash on Sunday at the Australian Open. The 21-year-old won 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-0 in two hours and nine minutes to reach her first Major quarter-final.
At the start of play, Gauff looked nervy and went down an early break to her compatriot. Although the teenager settled into an easy rhythm thereafter, Kenin’s poise and invulnerability ensured that the set remained balanced in her favour.
Momentum slightly shifted from the eighth game onwards. Kenin’s sharp shot-making came under pressure as Gauff loosened up, and her intuitive play forced Kenin to go on the backfoot before she was broken and the set was back on serve at 4-all.
Although the set remained on serve for the next two games, Gauff seemed more ominous and in command of the proceedings. In the 12th game of the set, on Kenin’s serve, Gauff had her first set point. Kenin vanquished it without any outward display of worry before holding her serve to push the set into the tie-break.
Winners came more swiftly off Gauff’s racquet and she raised four set points to lead in the match. Kenin’s gutsy play came into the fore again and she saved three of these set points but an error later, Gauff had the set and the lead after 58 minutes of play.
Gauff had a discomfited start to the second and third sets, too, slipping down early service breaks. Variation had helped her get the better of Kenin in the past but across the latter two sets, variation became Kenin’s go-to weapon.
Additionally, Gauff’s soaring errors ensured she never regained an equal footing with her opponent for the rest of the match. If the second set was quicker, the third was an entirely one-way street. The younger American had seven double faults and 48 unforced errors to 39 winners.
Her rival had just two double faults, 28 winners and 22 unforced errors. Kenin’s next opponent is also a first-timer in the quarter-final stages of a Major. Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur upset 27th seed Qiang Wang 7-6(4), 6-1 77 minutes.
Jabeur who has been steadily carving records this week not just for herself but also for the Arab world, became the first Arab woman to make it to the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam. Meanwhile, seventh seed Petra Kvitova dashed Maria Sakkari’s ambitiousness as she towered her way through to the last-eight with a 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-2 win over the Greek. Photo Credit: Aus Open Twitter