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Report: Fired-up Ostapenko hustles out Gauff

  • Gill Tan

Women's singles fourth round

A resurgent Jelena Ostapenko threw her hands to the sky after shocking seventh seed Coco Gauff 7-5 6-3 to reach her first Australian Open quarterfinal.

MORE: All the scores from AO 2023

The Latvian 17th seed was compelling throughout the one hour and 33-minute encounter, asking questions of Gauff to which the teen had no answer.

"I'm really happy with the win," smiled Ostapeko. "Of course, I knew she's such a great player, super young, she's playing really well and was fighting until the very last point."

"I really had nothing to lose so I just went there and tried to show my best, tried to fight for every point and to make it hard for her."

The build-up

High stakes surrounded Sunday's showdown, with a final-eight debut at Melbourne Park on the line.

Seventh seed Gauff had defeated her Latvian foe the one and only time they previously tangoed.

Her game has developed significantly since that 2019 encounter, taking her all the way to the 2022 Roland Garros final.

MORE: Australian Open 2023 women's singles draw

The American has been in form in 2023, starting the season with a title in Auckland and she hadn't dropped a set in Melbourne this week.

But thriving under pressure has been somewhat of a theme for Ostapenko, one of five former Grand Slam champions in the draw.

She has 16 top-10 wins on her resume, including four at majors – the most memorable of which was a three-set upset over Simona Halep to claim the Roland Garros 2017 title.

OSTAPENKO: "I can make some damage on the tour"

Still, she hadn't reached a major quarterfinal since Wimbledon 2018 and has found momentous wins in Melbourne elusive, with a lacklustre 0-3 record against top-10 rivals.

Story of the match 

A clinical backhand winner earned Gauff an early break, before her opponent immediately reeled back the advantage.

After world No.17 Ostapenko saved four break points in the seventh game, the American shrugged her shoulders and gestured to her team as if to ask "What more can I do?"

A barrage of heavy groundstrokes from the Latvian's racquet drew gasps of appreciation from the Margaret Court Arena crowd as both players found their rhythm.

Coco Gauff and Jelena Ostapenko

Serving at 5-6, Gauff was a point away from forcing a tiebreak before Ostapenko clinched four points in a row to break.

The 17th seed nabbed the set with a ferocious backhand that landed well out of Gauff's reach.

Ostapenko continued to pressure the teenager on serve in the second, but it wasn’t until the eighth game that the former world No.5 created a solitary break point chance.

Gauff conceded it with a long forehand, putting Ostapenko within four points of victory.

Without hesitation, Ostapenko delivered yet another crisp forehand winner to seal a place in the final eight.

"Even [if] I miss some balls, I knew If I do everything right, I'm going to put the same balls in the court and at the end I think I kept her under so much pressure and it brought me a win," Ostapenko said.

Key stats

Ostapenko struck 30 winners to her teenage foe's 21, and crucially converted each of the three break points that she created.

Gauff, on the other hand, converted just one of her eight break chances.

"I was just trying to stay positive all the time and I knew I have to play aggressive to beat her so I was trying to stay up in the court," explained Ostapenko.

She put 64 per cent of her returns in play, albeit lower than Gauff's 71 per cent.

The victor's average first-serve and second-serve speeds of 155 km/h and 119 km/h respectively were markedly slower than the American's, illustrating that placement and precision can do more damage than power alone.

What this means for Ostapenko 

A hitting-fest beckons in the quarterfinals, where Ostapenko faces reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina following the Kazakh's upset of top seed Iga Swiatek.

"She serves well," Ostapenko said. "The most important [thing] probably is to play my game again aggressive to keep her under the pressure. I'll just try to enjoy it as much as possible."

What’s next for Gauff? 

Although her run in Melbourne was abbreviated, Gauff is poised to climb in the rankings given that she was ousted even more prematurely at AO 2022.

Still competing in the women's doubles, Gauff will return home with the knowledge that she has made more singles history.

The American is only the third woman this century to reach seven or more Grand Slam fourth rounds before turning 19 and is the first to be added to that prestigious list since Nicole Vaidisova in 2007.

The youngster has now reached the final 16 milestone at all four majors, joining players including Kim Clijsters, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams who did the same before they were 19 and went on to have illustrious careers.