US teen Coco Gauff shakes off nerves to advance at US Open

NEW YORK (AFP) – Wimbledon teen sensation Coco Gauff shook off nerves and rallied on Tuesday to reach the second round of the United States (US) Open, defeating Russia’s Anastasia Potapova 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

The 15-year-old American, who ousted idol Venus Williams on her way to the fourth round at Wimbledon, drew energy from a cheering crowd at Louis Armstrong Stadium to advance.

“It was because of the crowd,” Gauff said. “No matter where I was on the court, I could always hear somebody supporting me and I’m grateful for that.”

It was an atmosphere that forced Gauff to soak in the moment and accept the nervousness that followed.

“It was crazy,” she said. “I was nervous going out on the court, such a big court, and my home Slam, I wanted to do well. It was a great atmosphere to play in and a great experience for me.”

United States’ Coco Gauff meets Russia’s Anastasia Potapova at the net after their first round match of the women’s 2019 US Open tournament in New York. PHOTO: AFP

Potapova, an 18-year-old also making her US Open main draw debut, jumped ahead 3-0 and took the first set.

“I was like, ‘I have to reset, stop thinking about what would happen after the match, just think about what I need to do to win the second set,’” Gauff said.

She rolled to a 4-1 edge in the final set before Potapova fought back.

“I wanted to win and I was trying to calm myself down,” Gauff said. “It was the crowd that helped me because I was down and I was almost out.”

Gauff faces Hungarian qualifier Timea Babos in the next round with a possible showdown against top-ranked defending champion Naomi Osaka of Japan in the third round.

“I first met Naomi (when) I hit with her at the Miami Open maybe three years ago,” Gauff said. “Our dads always knew each other. When I talked to her, we do have similarities.

“She’s doing amazing, obviously. Hopefully I can get to her level. I mean, she’s amazing. She’s a nice person. I can’t even say anything bad about her and her family, because they’ve always been super nice, even since I was 12.”