MELBOURNE, Australia — The crowd in Melbourne clearly favored her, but 15-year-old phenom Cori "Coco" Gauff’s impressive run at the Australian Open came to an end Sunday, as she was defeated by her fellow American Sofia Kenin.
After entering the court to thunderous applause, chants of “here we go Coco, here we go,” rang through Melbourne Arena throughout the match.
But Kenin, 21, who defeated Serena Williams in straight sets at last year’s French Open, beat Gauff by two sets to one to enter her first-ever Grand Slam quarterfinal.
Gauff showed her quality to take the first set on a tie break, but Kenin, the 14th seed, recovered to take the next two sets by 6-3 and 6-0.
After hugging her opponent mid-court, the teenager left the court in tears. Kenin, overcome with emotion after her victory, wept too.
“Obviously it meant a lot to me. I was just so happy to have won,” Kenin said. “It was a tough match.”
For her part, Gauff, despite her tournament exit, said while she was disappointed she lost and acknowledged errors in the match, she was proud of how she handled herself on the court.
“Even though I lost a set 6-0, I was still believing I could win it,” she said.
She admitted she was surprised by the crowd support during her matches in Melbourne and grateful for the cheers.
“I really didn’t think I would be such a favorite,” she said. “The whole stadium was really rooting for me. That was surprising, considering this isn’t my home slam. I guess I’m an adopted Australian now”
Gauff became the youngest player in the professional era to eliminate the reigning women's champion at the tournament, when she she beat Naomi Osaka of Japan in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, to advance to the fourth round and face Kenin.
She said she was looking ahead to her next tournaments, including the French Open in May, but smiled at the possibility of another goal: the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“It’ll be difficult but I’m going to try as hard as possible,” she said, acknowledging that she would need to get her ranking up in order to qualify. “I’d definitely love to play at the Olympics.”
For now, the plan is to take the lessons from Melbourne and move ahead.
“My short-term goal is to improve. I’m doing well right now at 15 and still have so much more I can get better on. I don’t even think this is close to a peak for me.
“I don’t think anybody could write how this past couple months have gone,” she added. “I’m definitely going to savor this and continue to build and get better to work for moments like this.”