Fifteen-year-old American sensation Coco Gauff is set to clash with defending champion Naomi Osaka in the third round of the ongoing Australian Open. She won a thrilling three-set against Romanian Sorana Cirstea at the Australian Open on Wednesday, setting up a third-round face-off on with Osaka on Friday at Melbourne Park.
Drawing strength from the support she has been receiving at the tournament, the teenager bounced back after a first set loss to overpower Cirstea in the succeeding ones, to notch a 4-6 6-3 7-5 victory. "You really made me believe," Gauff told fans at Melbourne Arena.
Facing Osaka for the second time at a Grand Slam
Gauff, the youngest player in the draw, will next face Japan's Osaka, who defeated her 6-3 6-0 in the third round of last year's U.S. Open. That encounter ended with Osaka drawing praise for allowing an emotional Gauff to thank her home fans in a post-match interview.
"Yeah, it was definitely a good moment I think for both of us, especially me," Gauff told reporters. "But I think more just for the people watching, the little girls and little boys who can kind of see what sportsmanship is really.
"When it's all said and done, we still look at each other with respect and the same." Gauff expects to be "less nervous" against Osaka this time around as she looks to make the fourth round at a major for the second time after her Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon last year. "We're both familiar with each other's games. She plays really aggressive. This time coming in, I'm going to be more aggressive," she said.
Defeated veteran Venus Williams in the first round
Gauff, who beat seven-time Grand Slam champion, Venus Williams, in the first round, found herself playing catch-up against the composed and experienced Cirstea as she struggled with errors off her forehand. But after taking the first set Cirstea failed to maintain her standards in the second, allowing Gauff to capture an early break and force the match to a decider.
The final set was a gripping, evenly-matched affair as Gauff battled from a break down to get back on serve at 2-3. Backed by cheers of "Let's go, Coco!", Gauff then broke Cirstea before serving out to clinch the match in two hours and seven minutes.
(With inputs from agencies)