An error-strewn Coco Gauff suffered a shock defeat to China’s Wang Qiang in the first round of this year’s Australian Open.
Gauff, who was the youngest player in the women’s singles draw, had shown impressive form in the build-up to the competition.
At the Adelaide International 2, the teenager reached the semi-final and came agonisingly close to beating world number one Ashleigh Barty the previous week.
The 18th seed was therefore the heavy favourite ahead of her match against Wang –– a player ranked 106th in the world.
But the 17-year-old committed 38 unforced errors in just over an hour as the former Chinese number one emerged victorious in straight sets.
Gauff did save four match points at 5-0 down in the second set. Yet, this proved to be in vain, and the American suffered her first defeat to Wang, having beaten her on two previous occasions.
Speaking in her post-match press conference, Gauff admitted it was hard to take any positives from the defeat.
“I think just everything disappointed me about today. I feel like in the pre-season I worked really hard and I was ready to have a great run here, but today I just perform well.
“I think learning wise, there’s a lot to learn from. I think I didn’t play as free as I normally do today. I think I was playing a bit tighter than normal.
“Next time, coming into the first round of a [Grand] Slam, especially after a tough week before, I think I just need to play more free in the moment.”
The world number 16 also emphasised the conditions in Melbourne were very different to that of Adelaide and that she’d have to consider whether to play warm-up tournaments so close to Grand Slams in the future.
“I will say Adelaide is more ‘thinner air’ if that makes sense. The ball flies a little bit more and I feel like I had a lot of unforced errors. So maybe that had something to do with it. But to be honest I think it was just me.”
This was Gauff’s earliest exit at the Australian Open and she is yet to reach beyond the fourth round of the tournament.
Meanwhile, Wang famously knocked out Serena Williams two years ago en route to the fourth round and reached a career-high of 12th in the world rankings back in 2019.
The 30-year-old will face Alison Van Uytvanck on Wednesday after the Belgian beat Spain’s Cristina Bucșa.