MELBOURNE, Australia – Plenty was going badly for Coco Gauff in the second round of the Australian Open.
The double-faults kept coming Wednesday, nine in all. The deficits, too: First, she dropped the opening set against 74th-ranked Sorana Cirstea. Then, after forcing a third, Gauff fell behind 3-0 by ceding 14 of 16 points with a series of mistakes. Later, after getting even at 3-all, Gauff was a mere two points from a loss.
None of that mattered. As she keeps showing, over and over, Gauff is not a typical 15-year-old. Not a typical tennis player, either. And by getting past Cirstea 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in a little more than two hours, she now has set up yet another Grand Slam showdown against Naomi Osaka.
Less than five months after their memorable meeting at the U.S. Open -- Osaka won that one in straight sets, then consoled a crying Gauff and encouraged her to address the crowd -- the two will meet again. Like that time, Osaka is the major’s reigning champion and Gauff is making her debut at the tournament.
“I know what to expect,” said Gauff, who eliminated seven-time major champion Venus Williams in the first round Monday. “I’m excited for a good match.”
She was not at her very best against Cirstea but managed to figure her way out of trouble, over and over and over again. Gauff demonstrated plenty of grit, yes, and also enthusiasm, pumping herself up by shaking a fist and yelling, “Come on!” after most of her successful points down the stretch.
Late in the third set, Gauff was told by the chair umpire a serve she hit didn’t count because Cirstea had indicated she wasn’t ready to receive the ball. Gauff said she never looks at an opponent before serving and asked for a head’s up next time.
When the point was played, Gauff won it and, from up at the net, stared in Cirstea’s direction and yelled. There was plenty more of that sort of celebrating the rest of the way, and Gauff was supported by a Melbourne Arena crowd that chanted, “Let’s go, Coco! Let’s go!”
Her father, Corey, was animated in the stands, too, except when he was squeezing his eyes shut at critical moments.
There were several for his precocious daughter, who was ranked only 313th last year when she became the youngest player in history to qualify for Wimbledon, then wound up getting to the fourth round.
Now she is 67th, and Cirstea was her first Grand Slam opponent with a worse ranking.
Didn’t seem that way at the outset: Gauff dropped the first set. After forcing things to a third, she trailed by a break. Even after getting back to 3-all, Gauff needed to get through one more gut-check: Twice, she was two points from departing.
But the American teenager broke in the next-to-last game, then held to win.
How did Gauff get through this test?
“Just my will to win,” she said. “My parents, they always told me I can come back, no matter what the score is.”
Earlier, Osaka worked through some frustrations by grabbing her racket with both hands and chucking it to the ground, tossing away a tennis ball and then kicking that racket, to boot.
Then she gathered herself and defeated Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-4.
In another notable result early on Day 3, former No. 1 and 2018 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki moved on in a tournament she has announced will be the last of her career, erasing big deficits in each set for a 7-5, 7-5 victory against Dayana Yastremska.