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Gritty Guaff survives scare on US Open debut


CORI "COCO" Gauff boldly battled to fend off the challenge of Anastasia Potapova in a three-set thriller on her US Open senior debut on Tuesday (August 27).

The rising star's fighting spirit saw her defeat a fellow Junior Grand Slam champion 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 on the Louis Armstrong Stadium at New York's Flushing Meadows.

Wild card Gauff made a stuttering start despite her immense home support from the vocal partisan crowd. The 15-year-old American nervously double-faulted three times in her opening service game. She also missed a backhand and a forehand that were originally were ruled in, but overturned after Potapova challenged both, and saw her service game broken to trail 2-0.

Within 15 minutes the much-hyped Gauff was 3-0 behind and hitting risky shots. Potapova powered into a 5-1 lead before a brief fightback.

Gauff was broken at the start of the second set, but broke back in the next game then picked up her rhythm. She cantered off and sealed the set with an overhead winner.

Gauff took a 4-1 advantage in the final set by dispatching a formidable forehand winner only for hard-hitting Potapova to break back.

The 18-year-old then required medical attention for her right shoulder injury, which did the trick as she won the next two games to leave the eventual victor of the intriguing contest on a knife-edge at 4-4.

But Gauff held her nerve to move to within a game of victory and, on Potapova’s serve, sealed success when the Russian thumped her forehand shot long on match point.

The majority of the fans went crazy when Gauff registered just her second WTA Tour-level triumph in the United States, which booked a 2nd round berth against Hungary’s Timea Babos.

And the teenage sensation arrived at the US Open having already made a name for herself as the youngest woman to win a Wimbledon match since 1991. Yet that victory was something quite special because she had beaten the American icon Venus Williams as the youngest ever qualifier at the All England Club.

Fearless throughout her exploits at SW19, the Florida-based ace was halted in the last 16 by eventual champion Simona Halep of Romania.

And just before the US Open she added the notable scalp of Australia's world no.2 Ashley Barty, this year’s French Open winner and the world no.1 for seven weeks this year, in an exhibition match at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

World no.1 Naomi Osaka, the defending champion who saw off American ace Serena Williams in last year's final, is Gauff's projected 3rd round opponent.

Gauff's audacious attitude on court has won her a legion of new fans since her breakthrough tournament at Wimbledon, and her dauntless displays have captured the hearts of millions. Now the US Open offers Gauff the opportunity to further enhance her reputation as the future world no.1.

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