Teen American tennis star Coco Gauff was reduced to tears in an emotional press conference after her Australian Open defeat to Jelena Ostapenko on Sunday. Gauff joined World No.1 Iga Swiatek as the latest big-name player to be eliminated from the women's draw after a 7-5, 6-3 defeat to Latvia's 2017 French Open champion in the last-16.
The 18-year-old has made it clear that winning a grand slam title is her main goal in 2023 and many considered Gauff to be among the favourites to lift the title at Melbourne Park. Despite being in blistering form leading into Sunday's clash against Ostapenko, the American admitted afterwards that she simply had no answers to her opponent on the day. Her emotions came pouring out after being asked about what went wrong against Ostapenko.
'SECRET NOTE': Novak Djokovic caught in bizarre Australian Open controversy
'WHAT A JOKE': Victoria Azarenka in 'ridiculous' Aus Open debacle
"I worked really hard and I felt really good coming into the tournament, and I still feel good," Gauff told reporters afterwards. "I still feel like I've improved a lot. But, you know, when you play a player like her and she plays really well, it's like there's nothing you can do.
"I feel like today I would say nothing because every match you play a part in, but I feel like it was rough. So it's a little bit frustrating on that part."
Gauff - who is normally so composed and assured of herself for a player still so young, began to tear up in the press room at Melbourne Park. Someone from the section of media gathered to interview her, offered Gauff a tissue before she replied: "I'm OK. We can keep going."
Coco Gauff broke into tears during her press conference after being knocked out of the Australian Open 🥺 pic.twitter.com/4lIVmIJagU
— Eurosport (@eurosport) January 22, 2023
The 18-year-old composed herself before forging ahead in the press conference, where she revealed she would now be supporting doubles partner Jessica Pegula in the women's draw. Pegula - the American third seed - set up a last eight clash with two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka after beating former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, 7-5, 6-2.
"I hope that she continues well in the tournament now that I'm out," Gauff smiled. "I hope she wins it." Gauff and Pegula, the women's doubles second seeds, will play for a place in the quarter-finals on Monday against Miyu Kato of Japan and Aldila Sutjiadi of Indonesia.
"I'm excited to play doubles. I think it gives me a chance to still be around and I definitely enjoy just competing in general," Gauff added. "So I think it will help me (get over defeat), just let me play with some frustration.
"I think doubles has taught me how to play, after losing, how to play with frustration, and that's what I felt like today. I was frustrated."
Coco Gauff backed for grand slam title success
Reacting to Gauff's defeat on Eurosport's coverage of the Australian Open, British tennis great Tim Henman backed the American to claim her maiden grand slam title soon. Gauff came close after making it the 2022 French Open final, where she lost to Swiatek.
“There are definitely areas she can improve on but I see that as a positive. Wow, you’re this good and you’re only 18, and you’ve still got so many areas to improve on,” Henman said.
“She’s been in a slam final now, for sure she wins slams in the future and yeah it’s hard to watch, you feel sorry for her, but it shows how much she cares and she’s going to want to get better in the future.”
Former British No.1 Laura Robson also backed Gauff to bounce back from her latest disappointment. “You only need to look at how she finished last season,” said Robson. “Losing a bunch of matches in a row and how she came out in 2023, winning Auckland straight away.
“I just love that she’s this open and it’s very similar to what we said about Iga [Swiatek], if she’s this open about it, she can improve on it. She fought until the last point but her serve let her down and at one point she was serving at 33% on second serve.
“Ostapenko was leaning on that all day and she [Gauff] didn’t really have a plan in that situation. She was trying to kick the second serve but it was just sitting up and that’s when you see how young she is, even compared to an Ostapenko, who hasn’t been in a quarter-final for a while.”
Ostapenko set up a quarter-final showdown with Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, who swept past Swiatek 6-4, 6-4 in just under 90 minutes on a stunned Rod Laver Arena.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.