Melbourne | Kenin knocks out Gauff
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Sofia Kenin came from behind to bring Coco Gauff’s run at the Australian Open to an end on Sunday, winning through to her first Grand Slam quarter-final in Melbourne, 6-7(7) 6-3 6-0, and setting up a next meeting with Ons Jabeur.
She's such a tough player [Coco Gauff]. [She has] had a tremendous 2019 and started off really well. All respect to her. She played a really great match. Sofia Kenin
In an all-American encounter on Melbourne Arena, Kenin kept her cool and produced the perfect display in the decisive set to blow teenager out of further contention.
The 21-year-old, who was born in Moscow and won 3 WTA titles last year, was left crying tears of joy as she revelled in her triumph.
“It was such a tough match,” Kenin said. “It means a lot to me. I’m so happy to be through to the next round.”
At the tender age of 15, Gauff was the talk of the tournament at Melbourne Park after claiming the scalps of 7-time major winner Venus Williams and defending champion Naomi Osaka, and will now rise to a career-high ranking of No 52 when the latest WTA list is released.
“She’s such a tough player,” Kenin said. “[She has] had a tremendous 2019 and started off really well.
“All respect to her. She played a really great match.”
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 at 16 years old and nearly 4 months.
Gauff headed into the 4th-round match against her fellow American as the favourite but it was Kenin who raced out to a 4-2 lead in the first set before the teenager clawed her way back.
There was no mistaking who the crowd wanted to win, with each point for Gauff greeted by cheers and screams while there was only polite applause for Kenin.
The 67th-ranked Gauff recovered to gain parity for 4-4 and they went to the tiebreak after Kenin had saved set point.
Gauff stepped it up a gear in the tiebreak and, aided by 2 Kenin double-faults, she took the first set in 58 minutes.
In the second, Gauff went slightly off the boil, racking up 14 unforced errors, and Kenin took the set in 38 minutes to level the match.
She carried the momentum into the decider, breaking Gauff to love in the opening game and racing towards victory.
“I just did the best I can. I tried to take it [the hype] in like any other match,” Kenin added. “I know she is playing well and I just tried to play my game, and fight for every point, and not focus on anything else.
“Yeah, I am just so speechless. I am just so happy.”
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Having never been past the 4th round of the major until now, Kenin has a good chance to push on to the semi-finals with a possible win over World No 78 Ons Jabeur, who is also having the tournament of her life.
The Tunisian proved too good for Wang Qiang, who took down Serena Williams on Friday, enduring a tough first set before streaking to a 7-6(4) 6-1 victory.
Jabeur, the highest-ranked Arab woman in history, having reached a career-high of 51 last year, is the first Tunisian woman to win a main-draw match at the Australian Open.
“I’m really shaking right now, it’s unbelievable, I can’t describe how I feel,” said the 25-year-old.
“Last time Kenin won against me so maybe it’ll be my revenge,” added Jabeur, who lost to Kenin last year in Hobart and retired against her in Mallorca.
“Quarter-finals for the first time, trying to inspire many young generation back home either in Tunisia or the Arabic world, especially in Africa, which is amazing,” Jabeur said after the match, in her post-match press conference.
“It’s not impossible. I made it. Like I said before, I’ve been practicing in Tunisia from the age of 3 through 16 or 17. I’m 100 percent Tunisian product.”
The current World No 78 Jabeur had already become the first Arab woman to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam event with her win over former World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki, a match that sent the Danish star into retirement.
Jabeur continued to make history as she cracked the Last 8 at a major event with her 77-minute victory over Wang.
“I’m receiving a lot of messages, especially people waking up at 5 a.m. in the morning to watch my match,” said Jabeur.
“I’m really proud. Hopefully they can still watch me and follow more, not just in the Grand Slam but the other tournaments.
“It will be really amazing. I hope really I can give a good example. Hopefully I can do more here. Hopefully can go really good.”
Sunday’s match turned the tables of their rivalry, as Wang had won both of their 2 previous meetings in routine straight sets, including a 6-0 6-3 victory earlier this month in Shenzhen.
This time around, though, Jabeur conquered her opponent, blasting 29 winners to Wang’s 11, and winning a far higher percentage of second-serve points than the Chinese player could muster.
“I was actually not that nervous as the last matches,” reflected Jabeur. “She’s obviously better ranked than me.
“We played few times and she won, so less stress. But I tried to actually win this time because it was frustrating every time when she wins very easy.”
Wang, following up her sterling victory over 7-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams, more than doubled her winner count with 23 unforced errors on the day, and was unable to break Jabeur’s serve in the 2nd set after losing the tight opening frame, where she held a set point.
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Earlier, Petra Kvitova fought back from a set down to beat 22nd seed Maria Sakkari, 6-7(7) 6-3 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena.
The two-time Wimbledon champion, runner-up to Osaka at Melbourne Park last year, awaits the winner of Sunday night’s clash between top seed Ashleigh Barty and American world No 19 Alison Riske.
The No 7 seed avoided a major upset on Sunday, coming back from a set down against the inspired Sakkari to book her spot into the Australian Open quarter-finals.
Kvitova had yet to drop a set in Melbourne heading into the match, and with just 14 games lost along the way is one of the tournament’s most in-form players.
Bouncing back strongly after losing a tightly-contested opening set, Kvitova fired 33 winners and broke the Greek player 8 times en route to a her 2 hour 12 minute victory.
“I think, you know, from the beginning it was a lot of nerves out there,” Kvitova said in her post-match press conference. “I didn’t feel the best.
“I was just, you know, too tight and everything was flying somewhere…
“In the end of the day, it was about fighting spirit in a way.
“Even I didn’t play the best, Maria played really great tennis, and it was nice to share court with her, for sure… I’m so happy that in the end I felt my game again.”
Sakkari was unable to maintain the level that she had reached in the first half of the match, and Kvitova dictated the rallies with her powerful lefty forehand, breaking She early to open up a 3-0 lead in the decider and then closing out the match with her 8th of the match.