MELBOURNE, Australia – Coco Gauff and Catherine McNally reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time by defeating No.10 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
After losing the first set, the young American couple rallied impressively, winning all the clutch points in the second and third as they stormed back from behind to claim victory.
When the match was finally sealed, their celebration paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant, who passed away in a helicopter crash on Sunday.
“We did it for Kobe today,” McNally said at the conclusion of the two-hour, 15-minute encounter.
Gauff, who was sporting trainers with 8-24 marked onto them in memory of the NBA great, added: “When we heard the news, we were both heartbroken. We both looked up to him. Even speaking about it right now is a bit emotional. We had to do something for him and I know he’s looking down on us right now.”
It was the 15-year-old who blinked first in an entertaining duel, with her serve broken in the opening set as it slipped away.
The Japanese paid then seemed to take full control as they broke early in the second, but a fine understanding of angles allowed their opponents to hit back.
Gauff and McNally would often wring mistakes out of their opponents, with an incredible retrieval from Gauff that helped bring up a break point midway through the second set typically of the tenacity that they showed throughout.
This attitude would help them to the second set and allowed them to control the third, even though the only break arrived in the eighth game.
It was still enough to send them into the last eight, where they will face No.2 seeds Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos, who took one hour 39 minutes to dispense with No.15 seeds Viktoria Kuzmova and Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
The higher-ranked pair fended off five break points in an epic sixth game to send the opener into a tiebreak that they dominated, while they edged a more open second set by pinching a couple of breaks to their opponents’ one.
In the other clash in the bottom half of the draw, No.7 seeds Chan Hao-Ching and Latisha Chan progressed to tackle No.3 seeds Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka as they came through 7-6(5), 6-4 against Misaki Doi and Monica Niculescu.
The only seeded pair in the top half of the draw in action on Monday, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova were severely stretched by American couple Sofia Kenin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands before winning, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 in two hours 39 minutes.
The No.4 seeds took an opening set littered with breaks, but a tighter second went the way of their opponents. A break early in the decider had the unseeded pair in the ascendancy, but the Czechs rallied from 2-4 down, winning five of the last six games to make their way into the last eight.
Jennifer Brady and Caroline Dolehide’s run continued as they defeated fellow unseeded partnership Lara Arruabarrena and Ons Jabeur, 6-2, 6-1 in just an hour. They will face top seeds Barbora Strycova and Hsieh Su-wei in the quarters.