MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Teen sensation Coco Gauff survived a three-set thriller against Sorana Cirstea at the Australian Open on Wednesday to book third-round showdown with defending champion Naomi Osaka for the second consecutive Grand Slam.
Coco Gauff from the USA meets Naomi Osaka from Japan in the third round of the 2019 US Open tennis tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (not shown). Mandatory credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
The 15-year-old American quickly became a crowd favorite during her tournament debut and used this support to get back into the game after a defeat and a 4-6-6-3-7-5 victory.
"You really made me believe," Gauff told fans at the Melbourne Arena.
Gauff, the youngest player in the draw, will next meet Japanese Osaka, who was defeated 6-3 and 6-0 in the third round of last year's US Open.
This encounter ended with Osaka being commended for an emotional Gauff thanking her home fans in an interview after the game.
"Yes, it was definitely a good time for both of us, especially for me," Gauff told reporters.
“But I'm thinking more of the people who watch, the little girls and boys who can somehow see what sportiness really is.
"When everything is said and done, we still look at each other respectfully and right away."
Gauff expects to be "less nervous" this time against Osaka, as she wants to be in the fourth round of a major after her Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon last year for the second time.
"We are both familiar with each other's games. She plays very aggressively. This time I will be more aggressive," she said.
Gauff, who defeated seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams in the first round, was faced with the composed and experienced Cirstea when she struggled with mistakes from her forehand.
But after the first set, Cirstea was unable to maintain her standards in the second set, so Gauff took an early break and had to decide the match.
The last set was a gripping, balanced affair when Gauff struggled 2-3 for another serve after a breakdown.
With the cheers of "Let's go, Coco!" Gauff then broke Cirstea before completing the match in two hours and seven minutes.
Edited by Peter Rutherford