Sweet on Coco: 15-Year-Old Phenom Advances to 3rd Round of U.S. Open, Will Meet Naomi Osaka

Photo: Emilee Chin (Getty Images)

It’s been a smashing summer for Coco Gauff.

The 15-year-old tennis player burst onto the scene at Wimbledon in July, when she beat one of her idols, Venus Williams, advancing all the way to the 4th round of the tournament.

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Now, having entered the U.S. Open as a wild card, Gauff has stamped her ticket to the third round, defeating Hungary’s Timea Babos on Thursday with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 win.

After the match, the crowd rained down jubilant cries of “Coco” upon the Florida teen—the youngest player in the U.S. Open this year.

“I’m really so grateful. I’m playing in front of all you guys. And you guys really believe in me,” Gauff told the crowd, according to the Washington Post.

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Later, she said of the crowd calling her name: “I was thinking like maybe they feel like I’m Golden State in Game 7 or something.”

“It’s different because you’re an individual player, so it’s weird, I guess,” she added. “Most of the time you hear the chants, it’s for a whole team—not just for, like, me. So it was pretty cool.”

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With the victory, Gauff heads into a challenge against defending U.S. Open Champion Naomi Osaka, currently ranked no. 1 in the world. But first, Gauff will play doubles on Friday—a match she believes will set her up nicely for the much-anticipated face-off against Osaka on Saturday.

“Doubles to me is more [fast] paced than singles,” Gauff said, according to CNN. “Naomi actually hits the ball pretty hard. I think it will prepare me well for Saturday’s match.”

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The two have never played against each other, and both say they’re looking forward to the match.

“She’s super sweet and I would love to play her, of course,” Osaka told reporters before Gauff won her match on Thursday. “For me, when I hear people talking about someone, I want to have the opportunity to play them just to assess it for myself.”

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As ESPN notes, Gauff has an uphill battle ahead of her with Osaka: in the Open era, no woman player making their debut at a major tourney has ever defeated a defending champion who was also a No. 1 seed. Not that Gauff seems at all daunted by the prospect.

“She’s defending champion. She’s won two slams. She’s No. 1. She’s only 21. We’re both pretty young. But I’m a little bit newer to the game,” Gauff said. “So I’m just curious to see how my game matches up against her. Obviously I want to win. I just want to enjoy it, have fun, enjoy the battle.”

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About the author

Anne Branigin

Staff writer, The Root. Sometimes I blog slow, sometimes I blog quick. Do you have this in coconut?