Australian Open 2020: Sofia Kenin stops Coco Gauff, Petra Kvitova comes from set down to beat Maria Sakkari

  • After a missed backhand by Gauff on match point, Kenin dropped her racket at the baseline and covered her face as tears welled in her eyes

  • Kenin next faces Ons Jabeur of Tunisia who beat China's Qiang Wang 7-6, 6-1 to make the quarterfinals

  • Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, was down a set before coming back to defeat No. 22 Maria Sakkari 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-2

Melbourne: It made sense to Sofia Kenin that Coco Gauff would be the one getting all of the attention and generating all of the buzz.

That's only natural when Gauff is 15 and making tennis history time and time again.

"Yeah, I mean, the hype is for her. She's obviously done great stuff, of course. It's absolutely normal. Just (tried) not to let that get in my head," Kenin said. "Of course, I didn't do it for the hype. I did it for myself, because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it."

 Australian Open 2020: Sofia Kenin stops Coco Gauff, Petra Kvitova comes from set down to beat Maria Sakkari

Sofia Kenin was too much to handle for Coco Gauff in the third set of their fourth round match at Australian Open. AP

Well, Sofia, you did it. Now get ready for the spotlight to shine your way. Kenin stopped Gauff's latest Grand Slam run by beating her 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-0 in the Australian Open's fourth round on Sunday.

Like Gauff, Kenin is a young — although, at 21, not quite as young — American and she reached her first major quarterfinal with the victory.

"I want to show who I am, show my best tennis, show why I'm there, why I belong," the 14th-seeded Kenin said. "I'm doing that."

In her previous match, the 67th-ranked Gauff beat Naomi Osaka to become the youngest player in the professional era to defeat the reigning women's champion at the Australian Open. At Wimbledon last year, Gauff became the youngest qualifier ever at that tournament, beat Venus Williams in the first round and made it all the way to the fourth.

Entering Sunday, Gauff was 8-2 in Grand Slam action, with her only losses to women who have been ranked No. 1 and own multiple major titles: Halep (at Wimbledon) and Osaka (at the U.S. Open).

Hence the aforementioned hype.

"I couldn't really write this," Gauff said. "I don't think anybody could really write how this past (several) months have gone."

She did not play as well as she has been this time, though, winding up with 48 unforced errors, more than twice as many as Kenin's 22.

Gauff's power is impressive. One tiny indication: She slammed a forehand into the net so hard that it dislodged a piece of a sponsor's white plastic sign.

Kenin can't copy that.

But thanks to her relentless ball-tracking and a bit of in-your-face attitude with a racket in hand, Kenin surged up the WTA rankings from 52nd to 12th in 2019 while winning her first three tour-level singles titles plus a couple in doubles.

"She definitely put a lot of balls in the court," Gauff said. "She's quick."

Just before Gauff announced herself last season, Kenin delivered her own breakthrough at the French Open by upsetting Serena Williams to get to the round of 16 at a major for the first time.

Now Kenin has taken another step.

Wasn't easy, though.

After double-faulting twice in the tiebreaker to drop the opening set — "For sure, nerves," Kenin acknowledged — she immediately tilted things the other way, breaking in the initial game of the second and never letting that lead slip away.

When it ended, appropriately enough, on a missed backhand by Gauff, Kenin dropped her racket at the baseline and covered her face as tears welled in her eyes.

"Anyone would get pretty emotional for the first time," said Kenin, who next faces another woman making her Slam quarterfinal debut, 78th-ranked Ons Jabeur of Tunisia.

The wins for Kenin and Jabeur ended at about the same time, and the future opponents soon found each other cooling down side-by-side on exercise bicycles.

Kenin laughed as she described the scene this way: "She's like, 'Good job.' I'm like, 'You, too.' It was fun, a funny moment. She's like, 'Are you feeling tired?' 'No, I'm good.' She's like, 'Yeah, me, too.' I'm like, 'OK. I'll see you on Tuesday, then.'"

Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic celebrates after defeating Greece's Maria Sakkari in their fourth round singles match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Petra Kvitova is into her fourth quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open. AP

Also advancing was last year's runner-up in Melbourne, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who was down a set before coming back to defeat No. 22 Maria Sakkari 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-2.

"From the beginning, it was a lot of nerves out there. I didn't feel the best. I was just, you know, too tight and everything was flying," Kvitova said.

Eventually, she worked out the issues, began to swing more freely and took control.

“When I was shaking the hand with the umpire, I told him it was like a soccer match today,” Kvitova told reporters of the atmosphere on the main showcourt.

“It’s nice on one side. On the other side, it’s the tennis, and it’s not a Fed Cup.

“It’s strange. But ... it didn’t bother me at all.”

Sakkari, 24, had never been in the fourth round of a Grand Slam before but had won the last two of her three previous matches against Kvitova, all of which were played last year.

Kvitova's quarterfinal opponent will be No. 1 seed Ash Barty who is trying to become the first Australian to win the nation's Grand Slam tournament since the 1970s. Barty moved on with a 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 win against No. 18 Alison Riske of the United States, who double-faulted on the last point.

“I love Petra,” said Barty, who lost to Kvitova in Australia a year ago, "but let's hope she doesn't break my heart."

Meanwhile, Tunisian Ons Jabeur defeated China’s Wang Qiang 7-6(4) 6-1 at the Australian Open on Sunday to become the first Arab woman to make a Grand Slam quarter-final.

Jabeur, who sent former world number one Caroline Wozniacki into retirement in the previous round, dazzled the crowd at Margaret Court Arena with both her variety and power, hitting 29 winners in the 77-minute contest.

Both players struggled to hold serve at the start of the match, each losing an early break, before Jabeur claimed the first set with a forehand winner in a tie-break.

Wang’s game unravelled completely in the second set as she went down two breaks before Jabeur sealed victory with another forehand winner.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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Updated Date: Jan 26, 2020 15:53:54 IST