Coco Gauff and a tearful Sofia Kenin and were given a harsh reminder of tennis’s acute demands as more of the leading women fell at the Australian Open.
Defending champion Kenin struggled to contain her emotions after admitting she was crippled by nerves in losing to Estonian veteran Kaia Kanepi 6-3, 6-2.
‘I couldn’t really handle the pressure,’ admitted the American. ‘I’m obviously not used to this, so right now I just have to figure out how to play at that level. I feel like everyone was always asking, “Do you see yourself going there and winning again?”
Sofia Kenin admitted she was crippled by nerves in losing to Estonian veteran Kaia Kanepi
‘Obviously, I said yes. I mean, with the way I’m playing, no. I felt really nervous. I haven’t felt my game for I don’t know how long.’
Gauff, soon to turn 17, was calmer after her 6-4, 6-3 defeat by No 5 seed Elina Svitolina, but continues to struggle to live up to the inevitable hype that accompanied her arrival on the Grand Slam stage.
Last year in Melbourne she defeated Naomi Osaka, but this latest loss means her record in the majors is slipping, with her serve prone to being exposed.
American Coco Gauff, soon to turn 17, continues to struggle to live up to the inevitable hype
Having twice made the last 16 in her first three Grand Slams, plus a third round, she has failed to get past the second round of her last three.
Meanwhile, world No 1 Ashleigh Barty needed a second-set tie-break to see off fellow Australian Daria Gavrilova 6-1, 7-6.
Czech sixth seed Karolina Pliskova is safely through after beating 2019 semi-finalist Danielle Collins, of the USA, 7-5, 6-2.