US teen Gauff thanks fans after opening victory
"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
New York: Wimbledon teen sensation Coco Gauff shook off nerves and rallied Tuesday to reach the second round of the 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." 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 on Thursday 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, her family, because they've always been super nice, even since I was 12." Gauff forgot she has a rest day between matches and admitted, "I really don't remember the match too well because everything is still a blur."
Better than any win
Gauff sees mostly benefits to her new-found fame, the most meaning when she can inspire others. "The amount of people, and kids especially, that come up to me saying I inspire them is better than any match I could win, just to know that I inspire another kid maybe to pick up a racquet or go through something they're facing at school," Gauff said. "I just hope I can continue to inspire. What I do on court is great, but what really matters is what happens off court, the people who you affect."
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