But Veteran Federer keeps rolling along as he books yet another Aussie open quarter-final spot
Crowd favourite Coco Gauff’s giant-killing run at the Australian Open came to an end yesterday as the American teen bowed out in the fourth round after a 6-7 (7/5), 6-3, 6-0 defeat to compatriot Sofia Kenin.
“Cocomania” has gripped Melbourne Park since the 15-year-old beat seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams in her opener and ousted 2019 champion Naomi Osaka in the third round – all on her Australian Open debut.
With the majority of the packed Melbourne Arena crowd egging her on, Gauff showed the hype was not misplaced with strong serves mixed with booming groundstrokes that often left her compatriot rooted to the spot.
She fought back from a slow start to level the first set and then built a comfortable lead in the tiebreaker to close it out.
“I got the Aussie chant today. I don’t know if it was because it is Australia Day,” said Gauff. “I really didn’t think I would be such a favourite.”
But Kenin did not fold.
The 14th seed, who at 21 is six years older than Gauff, did not try to match her opponent winner for winner in their first career meeting, instead focusing on keeping errors to a minimum.
That approach paid dividends, as while Gauff hit 39 winners to Kenin’s 28 the 15-year-old had 26 more unforced errors.
“My short-term goal is to improve,” said Gauff. “I’m doing well right now at 15. I still have so much I feel like I can get better on. I don’t even think this is close to a peak for me.”
Undeterred by chants of, ‘Let’s go, Coco, let’s go’, Kenin who fought her way back into the match, getting the crucial break in the second set when Gauff served three double-faults in the fourth game.
Gauff had problems with her ball toss throughout the match, incurring seven double faults and managing to get just 56 percent of her first serves in while facing 12 breakpoints. Kenin had three breaks of Gauff’s serve in the third set and burst into tears when her opponent’s backhand went long to send her into her first Grand Slam quarter-finals, bettering her fourth-round defeat at Roland Garros last year.
“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,” Kenin said. “I want to show who I am, show my best tennis, show why I’m there, why I belong. I’m doing that.”
She will next meet Tunisian Ons Jabeur, who beat Serena Williams’ conqueror Wang Qiang of China 7-6 (7/4), 6-1 on the Margaret Court Arena, for a place in the last four.
Meanwhile, Roger Federer regained control after a slow start against Hungarian Marton Fucsovics to march into the quarter-finals with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win on a chilly evening at the Rod Laver Arena yesterday.
The six-time Australian Open winner, who was two points from defeat against John Millman in his previous round, looked rusty in the opening set against Fucsovics in a repeat of their fourth-round clash here in 2018.
“The morning after Johnny’s match and this morning I lay in bed for an hour thinking, ‘when are we going to stand up? OK 1-2-3, huh, and how do I feel?’ ” he laughed, referring to his 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (10/8), win over Millman.
“I was able to recover; I’m sure I’m going to feel better every day that goes by after that match.”
Fucsovics had not won a set against Federer in their previous two meetings but wiped that off his record after getting the only break in the seventh game of the opener when the Swiss committed three straight unforced errors.
“It was a tough start, I thought that Marton played clean, I struggled with the (after-effects) from the Millman match,” said the 38-year-old Federer, who hit 44 winners as opposed to 36 unforced errors against Fucsovics.
“He gave me a beat-down from the baseline so maybe he took my confidence away a little bit. It just took some time, I was looking to maybe mix it up a little bit more. It gets pretty slow in the night time, especially when it’s cool like this.”
With the cool conditions and a bit of breeze both players struggled with their first serves, with Fucsovics, who has now lost all six of his matches against top-five opponents, getting in 47 percent of his.
“It’s frosty,” joked Federer. “It’s not that cold, it’s fresh. We know how it can be in Australia this time of year. It’s better this way. I don’t know who wants it incredibly hot.”
The third-seeded Federer will now face American Tennys Sandgren, who defeated No 12 seed Fabio Fognini 7-6 (7/5), 7-5, 6-7 (7/2), 6-4 earlier yesterday.
Federer was visibly in a good mood after reaching the Australian Open quarter-finals for the 15th time and engaged in some light banter about his next opponent’s unusual first name.
“He was not going to be a baseball player, that’s for sure. I’m looking forward to it,” he said, before breaking into laughter. “I’ve played a lot of tennis in my life but never against Tennys.”
World No 1 Ash Barty celebrated Australia Day with a comeback win yesterday, defeating Alison Riske 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 to make the Australian Open quarter-final for the second year in a row.
The Australian top seed cruised through the first set against Riske but began misfiring early in the second, hitting 13 unforced errors to allow the American to level the match at one set all.
The deciding set was a tighter affair as Riske fought back from a break down but was unable to keep up her standards on serve.
Barty clinched the victory after Riske double-faulted on match point to set up a meeting with last year’s finalist Petra Kvitova.