NEW YORK — Coco Gauff pumping her fists and screaming “Come on!” to celebrate a Grand Slam victory is already becoming a regular occurrence. At just 15, she’s now the youngest player to reach the U.S. Open’s third round since Anna Kournikova in 1996, quickly proving her captivating run to Week 2 at Wimbledon was no fluke.
And what a matchup comes next: Gauff will face No. 1 seed and defending champion Naomi Osaka, a 6-2, 6-4 winner over Magda Linette, on Saturday.
“This is just the beginning, I promise,” Gauff told an appreciative crowd that chanted her name at Louis Armstrong Stadium on Thursday during a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 win over Timea Babos of Hungary.
“I was tested a lot. I think we were both just testing each other,” Gauff said after her second three-set tussle this week. “If I didn’t win that last point, maybe she would have won the match.”
The Floridian is putting together another impressive stretch, just like she did on the way to the fourth round at the All England Club last month in her Grand Slam debut.
Photo: Charles Krupa / Associated Press
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Another young American woman is making Slam waves, too: Taylor Townsend, 23, whose pure, raw emotion came through after she delivered one last crisp forehand volley to complete her 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) upset of No. 4 Simona Halep, who won Wimbledon last month for her second major title.
Afterward, Townsend’s voice cracked and tears began to flow as she told fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium, “It’s been a long journey. Just haven’t been able to get over the hump.”
She was marked for greatness long ago.
Townsend won singles and doubles junior titles at the 2012 Australian Open, turned pro that year at age 16, then cracked the top 100 in the rankings while still a teen. But a drop out of the WTA’s top 300 followed and she came into Thursday 9-16 at Grand Slam tournaments and 0-10 against top-10 women.
Against Halep, she wasted two match points, one via double-fault, while serving for the win at 5-4 in the third, but did not waver. Townsend then saved a match point for Halep at 6-5.
“When I’ve played her before, I was just trying to make balls (in). I think I played not to lose,” said Townsend, who’d been 0-3 against Halep. “And today I played to win.”
Howard Fendrich is an Associated Press writer.
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