MELBOURNE: Coco Gauff’s conqueror Sofia Kenin reached the semifinals of a Grand Slam for the first time Tuesday as the American ended the historic run of Tunisian Ons Jabeur at the Australian Open.
The 14th seed defeated the unseeded Jabeur 6-4, 6-4 and faces top seed Ashleigh Barty, who disposed of Czech seventh seed Petra Kvitova 7-6 (8-6), 6-2, in the last four in Melbourne.
The Moscow-born 21-year-old, who defeated American 15-year-old Gauff in the previous round, said that she was “super-excited”.
“It was a tough match,” said Kenin, who moved to New York as a baby with her family with just a few hundred dollars to their name.
Kenin said that holding her serve at 3-2 down in the second set in a game that stretched to 10 minutes was a turning point.
“It was a tough moment she was playing well. I didn’t know it was 10 minutes but it felt pretty long,” she said.
“But after that I got my momentum and started playing better.”
Kenin broke Jabeur in the third game of the first set for a 2-1 lead at Rod Laver Arena.
The 78th-ranked Jabeur, the first Arab woman to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal, struck back for 3-3 but Kenin, also contesting her first Major quarterfinal, immediately broke again and then fought to hold serve to go up 5-3.
The 10th game was critical as Kenin served for the set.
The 25-year-old Jabeur staved off five set points and had a chance to break, but Kenin doggedly held on and sealed the set in 44 minutes on the sixth set point when Jabeur planted a forehand wide.
It was Jabeur’s 18th unforced error in the first set to Kenin’s six.
Tunisians have been staying up into the early hours to watch Jabeur’s historic run on television and she hopes to inspire a new generation of Arab tennis fans.
But she was always on the back foot, especially on her own serve, and grazed her shin by accidentally hitting her leg with her racquet.
Kenin sealed her spot in the semifinals at the first match point opportunity when Jabeur’s return flopped into the net.
The women’s draw in Melbourne has been notable for the early demise of many of the top seeds.
Serena Williams, who was pursuing a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, and reigning champion Naomi Osaka were both surprise victims in the third round.
In Wednesday’s quarterfinals fourth seed Simona Halep plays 28th seed Anett Kontaveit, while unseeded two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza faces 30th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.