MELBOURNE (AFP) – A relaxed Coco Gauff said yesterday a carefree attitude had unlocked her precocious talent after the teenage sensation booked a second round Australian Open showdown with world number five Elina Svitolina.
The 16-year-old showed the form that fuelled her dazzling run last year at Melbourne Park during a crushing 6-3, 6-2 victory over Swiss Jil Teichmann in 56 minutes.
It was a commanding performance from the strong-serving American, who needed almost three hours to beat 58th-ranked Teichmann last week at the warm-up Gippsland Trophy.
“I put way less pressure on myself than I did last week and you can kind of see how the match played that I kind of played a little bit more free than last week,” she said.
“I learned a lot from the summer series here, and I’m happy to take what I learned into this week.”
The world number 48 was one of the best stories in Melbourne last year, where she upset reigning champion Naomi Osaka in straight sets in the third round.
Gauff quickly emerged as a fan favourite and became a vocal leader in the movement for racial justice in United States (US), where a speech she delivered in Florida went viral on social media.
Touted as the heir apparent to 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, her heady rise was tempered with early exits at the US Open and French Open last year.
Gauff said she had learned to cope with the high expectations.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” she said. “You want to do as well or even better than the year before, but I try not to think about it and just take it one match at a time.”