If Coco Gauff made headlines for her activism during the five-month tennis shutdown, she showed she hadn’t lost the competitive edge on the tennis court.
In a rollercoaster 2 hours 48 minutes contest against World No 11 Aryna Sabalenka, she came through 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-4 in the second round of the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Kentucky.
This was 16-year-old Gauff’s second top-15 win this season and third overall. In January, she had knocked out defending champion Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open. Last year, she defeated then World No 8 Kiki Bertens en route winner her maiden WTA title in Linz, Austria.
“I think my mentality pushed me to win,” Gauff said after upsetting the second seed.
“We’re both playing good tennis, and had our ups and downs in the match. At the end of the day, it came down to a couple close points.”
— wta (@WTA) August 12, 2020
The first set alone lasted 61 minutes, with frequent changes in momentum. Sabalenka was quick off the blocks and took a 2-0 lead, only to see Gauff win the next five games. But the American wasn’t able to serve out the set a game later but eventually won it in a tie-breaker.
“It’s pretty much impossible to play your best tennis for all three hours of a match,” the 16-year-old said.
“Keeping the level high throughout was pretty tough, but that’s just tennis, playing in different conditions, and just starting back on tour. I’m not too upset with how I played; I’m most proud of how I handled myself, staying composed on the pressure points.”
The third set turned into another see-saw battle, but Gauff finished strong, winning 12 of the last 14 points to claim the last two games.
She will take on Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur in the quarterfinal.