Coco Gauff enjoyed being the center of attention in New York as she reached the quarterfinals of the US Open for the first time.
The 18-year-old is poised to break into the top 10 for the first time next week and continued her excellent season by beating China’s Zhang Shuai 7-5, 7-5 in a top-flight clash at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The American has already reached her maiden Grand Slam final at the French Open this year and it would be a compelling tale if she could win her first title in the tournament that eliminated Serena Williams.
There’s still a long way to go, of course, but Gauff is yet to drop a set and showed her competitive maturity in a tough battle with Zhang, winning the last four games and salvaging a set point.
The teenager is already a big favorite with the tennis crowd and she said: “At the 6-5 change people were like, ‘Let’s go, Coco’. I literally tried not to smile.
“I have to stay in the zone. Inside, I tried my best not to smile. It’s a surreal moment for me, at Arthur Ashe Stadium people are singing my game. I feel like I’m at an NBA game.
“That’s what’s so special about tennis. You go to a football or NBA game, people are yelling the team’s name. Having the whole crowd chanting your name specifically is something I don’t take for granted.”
In the last eight, she meets one of the most in-form players in the draw, 28-year-old France’s Caroline Garcia.
Garcia, hailed as future world number one by Andy Murray more than a decade ago, struggled under the weight of expectations to start the season ranked 74th.
She is now 17 after a brilliant summer that included a run to the fourth round of Wimbledon, a win over Emma Raducanu and three titles, most recently at the prestigious WTA event in Cincinnati.
Garcia’s 6-4, 6-1 win over Alison Riske-Amritraj earned her a second Grand Slam quarterfinal of her career, five years after reaching the same stage on home soil at Roland Garros.
“I don’t feel the same person as I did five years ago,” she said. “Of course I learned a lot. I’ve had a tough few years in there. I have gained some experience. We worked hard to get back on top. I’m really happy to be back at this level. I’m really enjoying it.”
Luck appears to have been key to Garcia’s revival, and she was able to laugh after missing four match points in a long final game on Sunday.
“To get wins it definitely helps to be happy, to know how to play, to be healthy,” she said.
“I understand and with my team we see so many things we can still improve, so it gives us a sense to keep improving and keep working hard. It’s a challenge every day and a reward to be here today and I’m grateful for all the hard work we’ve put in.
“I like to play tennis aggressively to progress. I have fun, enjoy playing this way and on top of that I’m glad it works and it’s a good way for me.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/tennis/coco-gauff-zhang-shuai-caroline-garcia-new-york-serena-williams-b2159725.html Coco Gauff takes nothing for granted as she reaches the last eight of the US Open