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Unstoppable Gauff marches into maiden AO quarterfinal

  • Vivienne Christie

Amid all the talk of the young women achieving impressive career breakthroughs at AO 2024, it’s easy to forget that Coco Gauff is still a teenager.

There’s a sense of the veteran about the 19-year-old, partly because of how much the American – crowned with a first Grand Slam title at the 2023 US Open – has already accomplished in tennis and partly because she’s such a wise head on young shoulders. Considered and articulate, the respectful teenager is quick to speak up on important social issues.

MORE: All the scores from Australian Open 2024

That refreshing intersection was on show as Gauff achieved another milestone at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday: with a straight-sets win over Magdalena Frech, she progressed to an Australian Open quarterfinal for the first time.

In a brilliant display of power and purpose, Gauff took one hour and three minutes to complete her 6-1 6-2 win.

Afterwards, she thanked the prolific Rod Laver and other tennis legends for attending the match.

She also explained the “you can change the world with your racquet” inscription on her personally branded shoes.

“[It’s] something my dad told me since I was a little girl and the inspiration of why I always feel like it’s important to speak up,” said Gauff

“Sometimes I’m just looking at my shoes and [it’s] just a reminder that life is much more than tennis and how I do out here on the court, it doesn’t define me as a person … everything that I do on the court is a plus to my life. I have all that I need and this is just all extra.”

It’s an outlook that has helped Gauff compete with brilliant abandon in recent months. Combined with her US Open breakthrough, the No.4 seed is now a winner of 11 straight Grand Slam matches.

Having launched her season with a seventh WTA title in Auckland, Gauff has also claimed nine consecutive match wins this year. She’s dropped only one set within that period – against Elina Svitolina in the Auckland final – and there appeared no signs of that record diminishing in a first career meeting with Frech. 

Gauff was in command from start to finish against the 26-year-old, who’d taken a wildly disparate path in progressing to the final 16 of a major for the first time.

Frech’s three match wins in Melbourne – over Daria Saville, Caroline Garcia and Anastasia Zakharova – were all extended three-set battles, with the Pole requiring more than eight hours court time.  

Gauff, by contrast, had dropped only 13 games in wins over Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, Caroline Dolehide and Alycia Parks, spending less than four hours on court.

The teenager stamped her authority early against her world No.69 opponent, dropping only three points on serve as she ran away with the 26-minute first set.

And while Frech subsequently extended both the rallies and her service games, she never seriously challenged as Gauff completed her victory with a stunning backhand cross-court winner on her second match point. It was one of 21 winners, compared to seven from Frech.

In her 18th main-draw campaign at a major, and her fifth in Australia, Gauff is building on some stellar career records.

She is the youngest player to reach the AO women’s singles quarterfinals since an 18-year-old Agnieszka Radwanska in 2008.

There’s also her growing status among American teens. Since 1990, only Jennifer Capriati (with 50) and Serena Williams (49) have won more Grand Slam matches than Gauff’s 48.

“(My) first Aussie quarterfinal. Super happy to be in this position and be here,” said Gauff. “I think I had three fourth rounds. It's cool to get over that hump. Hopefully I can keep going for more.”

Finding herself with less match time than expected in Melbourne, Gauff is implementing some extra practice ahead of her quarterfinal meeting with Marta Kostyuk.

“I've definitely been doing more off-match stuff than I normally do just to still say sharp. That's what my body is used to, playing hour-and-a-half, two-hour matches,” she said.

And while there’s also time to “go to the movies [or] read a book” Gauff also admits that she – like all of us – often forgets she’s still so young.  

“I just feel like I've lived so many lives the last four years, that I just feel older than 19,” she smiled.

“Yeah, I definitely do forget my age a lot.”