In the opening set of her third-round match against Elise Mertens on Friday, fallible and frustrated Coco Gauff looked as if she would end the tournament early, which was not the case as she did earlier this week at the US Open.
Mertens, the 27-year-old Belgian, was playing loose and aggressive, while Gauff, the 19-year-old American star, was committing error after error on almost every kick. Gauff, who usually has unnatural emotional maturity and composure, showed frustration throughout the first part of the match, screaming uncharacteristically angrily after a double fault in the first set, which Mertens won 6-3.
It was suddenly easy to imagine Gauff’s US Open run ending on this cold New York evening.
Instead, Goff turned the ball on and turned the emotional tables on Mertens. She won the second set less shakily, 6-3, and by the third set, it was clear how much Gauff wanted to win, as she used her tremendous foot speed to track down every ball, forcing Mertens into errors. Gauff won the third set cleanly, 6-0.
Gauff said in her on-court interview: “The energy I had today definitely helped me. I felt like you were playing every point to the best of my ability.” “When you lose the first set, you know you have to show that you left all that energy in the first set and that you’re ready to play.”
“The three players are showing everyone that I’m not going down without a fight,” Gauff said.
The early-night game at Arthur Ashe Stadium attracted a packed crowd that included pop star Justin Bieber and his model and influencer wife Hailey Bieber, along with Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and actress Katie Holmes.
The crowd was lopsided for Gauff from the opening serve tonight. Chants of “Let’s go, Coco” and “Finish it, Coco” rang out throughout the stadium. The crowd jumped to its feet and fans cheered each other on at every positive turn by Gauff, although progress was slow until the second set.
Friday Marked for the third time The two faced each other, with Gauff winning their last meeting in straight sets at the 2022 French Open. Gauff admitted in a pre-match interview that she won their last encounter easily, and she did not expect to win so easily this time.
Not long after the start of the first group, it seemed almost certain that Mertens would qualify for the round of 16. Then things turned around.
Gauff lost the first game of the second set, then struggled hard to hold serve after six deuce points. On the sixth day, I hit a smash up the middle and screamed “Come on!” It was her fourth ace of the match at that point. As the match wore on, she hit a risky backhand and when Mertens curled a backhand cross-court, Gauff pounced, ran to the ball and then leapt into the air to crush it down the line with her forehand.
When she clinched the second set with a backhand down the line, she pumped her fist and extended her arms, inviting the crowd to cheer for her. Mertens seemed hopeless.
Gauff started the third set strong as Mertens’ game completely fell apart. She hit a forehand, hit a long backhand, and double-faulted.
Gauff will play in the next round with Caroline Wozniacki, who recently returned to tennis after retiring three years ago to focus on building a family. Wozniacki made an impressive start to the tournament, defeating Petra Kvitova in straight sets in her first round match and Jennifer Brady in three sets, after trailing by one set, in her second round match.
Gauff said she told Wozniacki when she retired that she wished she had the opportunity to play with her. “This wish has been fulfilled,” she said. “Playing a legend like her is really exciting and I won’t take this moment for granted.”
Gauff, who looked like a veteran as she beat Mertens in the third set, was quick to remind us that she’s still a teenager.
In an interview at ESPN’s office inside Ashe after the match, Gauff said she noticed Bieber in the crowd during the second set.
“Oh yeah, I definitely saw who was there,” she said with a laugh. “I thought I couldn’t lose to Justin Bieber. I never lost a match after I saw that. I felt a little nervous when I first saw it, and then I remembered that President Obama and Michelle Obama were in my match in the first round.”
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