Coco Gauff’s bid for history at the Australian Open ended in tears in the last 16 on Sunday as the 15-year-old crashed out in three sets to fellow American Sofia Kenin.
The 14th seed Kenin recovered from a set down to win convincingly 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-0.
She has a golden opportunity to make the semi-finals, as she’ll face unseeded Tunisian Ons Jabeur in the quarters.
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Gauff, the youngest player in the draw, departed the court in tears. But she has been one of the stories of the Australian Open, beating Venus Williams in the first round and then stunning reigning champion Naomi Osaka in round three.
The supremely talented teenager, who turns 16 in March, was attempting to become the youngest player to win a Grand Slam in the Open Era, which began in 1968.
The current record-holder is Martina Hingis, who triumphed at the 1997 Australian Open aged 16 years and 105 days.
MORE AUSTRALIAN OPEN NEWS
A DECADE IN THE MAKING:
THE UPSET, ‘SALTY’ RAFA AND THE MIMIC:
FIRST HE WAS LEFT HEARTBROKEN BY FEDERER.
BIG NICK ENERGY:
But Gauff was under the cosh immediately against Kenin, the 21-year-old breaking in the first game Melbourne Arena and comfortably holding for a swift 2-0 lead.
There was no mistaking who the crowd wanted to win — each point for Gauff greeted with cheers and screams; there was only polite applause for Moscow-born Kenin.
The 67th-ranked Gauff recovered to gain parity for 4-4 and they went to the tie-break after Kenin saved set point.
Gauff then stepped it up a gear in the tie-break — aided by two Kenin double-faults — to take the first set in 58 minutes.
The crowd was once again rowdy at ‘the people’s court’ Melbourne Arena, forcing one fan to hilariously interrupt proceedings – and the chair umpire to then tell them off.
Warning: The below video contains explicit language.
The younger American’s serve is powerful but she was totting up the double faults, her seventh of the match offering Kenin a second break point with the latter 2-1 up.
A resurgent Kenin — the determination etched on her face — broke at the third time lucky to lead 3-1, triggering a rare show of anger from the teenager.
Kenin took the second set in 38 minutes and carried the momentum into the deciding set, breaking Gauff to love in the opening game and racing towards victory.
Touted as heir apparent to Serena Williams, Gauff burst onto the scene when she beat Venus Williams in the Wimbledon first round last year on her Grand Slam debut.
She went out in the fourth round to eventual champion Simona Halep, but a star was born.
Gauff lost to then-number one Osaka in the third round at the US Open, but got her revenge at the same stage in Melbourne, more evidence of her huge potential.
That made Gauff the youngest player to defeat a reigning Australian Open champion in the Open.
DJOKER LAUGHING ALL THE WAY TO WEEK TWO
There’s a reason he’s the tournament favourite.
Novak Djokovic has breezed through to the quarter-finals after dismantling Argentinian 14th seed Diego Schwartzman 6-3 6-4 6-4.
The Serbian No.2 seed, who is aiming at his eighth Australian Open title, took just two hours to earn a meeting with Milos Raonic on Tuesday.
GREEK STAR’S CHEEKY DANCE ROUTINE
Maria Sakkari could have been forgiven for being a nervous wreck before her blockbuster match with Petra Kvitova.
But if she was you wouldn’t have had any clue.
The cheeky Greek star was minutes from walking out on Rod Laver Arena when she spotted one of the television cameras trained on her.
She gestures at someone before breaking into a dance move. All with a big smile on her face.
And it seemed to do wonders for Sakkari, who took the first set againt the 7th seed 7-6.
Kvitova, however, rallied and fought back to take the next two sets 6-3, 6-2 to book her place in the quarter finals.
KVITOVA SETS UP POTENTIAL BARTY CLASH
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova set up a potential clash with top seed Ashleigh Barty in the Australian Open quarter-finals after fighting back to defeat Maria Sakkari in three sets on Sunday.
The Czech seventh seed lost the first set before winning 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-2 to ruin Sakkari’s hopes of becoming the first Greek woman to reach the last eight of a Grand Slam.
The 2019 finalist Kvitova will face either Australia’s world number one Barty or the American 18th seed Alison Riske next in Melbourne.
“It’s pretty tough to play Maria, I lost to her last time,” said Kvitova, the 2011 and 2014 Wimbledon winner.
“I had to fight pretty hard.” The 22nd-seeded Sakkari made a fast start, breaking the more experienced Kvitova in the first game in just two minutes at a sunny Rod Laver Arena.
Cheered on by a band of boisterous Greek supporters, the 24-year-old displayed few nerves despite never getting this far in 16 previous Grand Slam appearances.
Kvitova, who suffered severe injury to her left hand — her playing hand — in a knife attack at her home in 2016, had not dropped a set in reaching the last 16.
The 29-year-old broke back for 5-5, but Sakkari did likewise for 6-5 with a terrific backhand pass that landed plum on the line.
But, as formation jets roared low in the sky to mark Australia Day, the Greek was unable to serve out the set, forcing the tie-break.
Sakkari, whose only WTA title came in Rabat in May, clinched the set in 52 minutes.
Both players struggled on their serves, exchanging breaks throughout the second set and the animated Greek lost her cool as she went 4-3 down, slamming her towel on her chair.
Kvitova displayed the cooler head, winning the set to force a decider when Sakkari double-faulted, before racing to victory in the third set
GUAFF’S EYE-WATERING WINDFALL
Most 15-year-olds haven’t worked a day in their life. But Coco Gauff isn’t like most 15-year-olds.
In fact, she is the most talked about 15-year-old on the planet right now.
The American prodigy stunned the tennis world when she upset defending champion Naomi Osaka on Friday night.
Now she faces 14th seed Sofia Kenin for her first Grand Slam quarter-final appearance.
Gauff is set for the biggest payday of her career, regardless of what happens today. The teenager will collect $300,000 if she loses. That will leap to $525,000 if she continues her phenomenal run.
Now a leading sports marketing expert believes Gauff will earn close to $40 million in endormesment deals before she reaches 20.
Turnstile Sport CEO Rob Mills says women’s tennis says Gauff’s rise to stardom has come at a perfect time for a female, following the explosion of women’s sport in recent years.
“We are very bullish about her,” Mills told The Telegraph.
“She is obviously young and you’ve got to see that consistency coming through, but if you look at say Osaka’s deals, we’re in the 8.5million US dollars territory. She’s going to be very quickly in that range very conceivably in the next 12 to 24 months. That’s only the sports brand category.”