Gauff takes advantage of US Open invitation

Associated Press

New York

Here’s how new all of this is to Coco Gauff: She didn’t quite realize she only has to play every other day at the U.S. Open.

“I’m still used to playing juniors,” the American said with a chuckle, “so I forgot about the day off.”

She’s still just 15. She’s competing in just her second Grand Slam tournament. And yet she’s definitely showing she can perform like someone much older and more experienced.

With her parents jumping out of their front-row seats over and over again, and a raucous partisan crowd backing her at Louis Armstrong Stadium, Gauff trailed by a set and a break, then again by a break in the third set, before coming up big down the stretch to get past Anastasia Potapova of Russia 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in her debut at Flushing Meadows.

“Honestly, I mean, I really don’t remember the match too well,” Gauff said, “because everything is still a blur.”

Here is what is clear: She displayed the same sort of gumption she did while saving match points in a Centre Court comeback at Wimbledon during her captivating run to the fourth round last month.

Gauff simply does not give in or give up.

As strong as her serve and other strokes are, she’s already showing an ability to make adjustments during a match and figure out ways to win, time and again. Gauff was ranked 313th when she got a wild-card invitation into qualifying at Wimbledon, then became the youngest player in history to make it through those preliminary rounds at that prestigious tournament.

After beating Venus Williams in the first round, then a 2017 Wimbledon semifinalist in the second, Gauff got to Week 2 before her surprising showing there ended with a loss to eventual champion Simona Halep.

It was all enough to persuade the U.S. Tennis Association to provide a wild card into its event, a special entry she needed because her ranking is 140th.

On a busy Day 2 at the year’s last Grand Slam tournament, there still were matches involving 2017 champion Sloane Stephens and the temperamental Nick Kyrgios to be played later.

Earlier, four top-10 seeds in the bottom half of the draw all tumbled out in the first round: No. 4 Dominic Thiem, a two-time French Open runner-up; No. 8 Stefanos Tsitipas, an Australian Open semifinalist; No. 9 Karen Khachanov, a French Open quarterfinalist; and No. 10 Roberto Bautista Agut, a Wimbledon semifinalist. The biggest beneficiary of all of those departures could be three-time champion Rafael Nadal, the No. 2 seed, who found no such trouble, easily putting together a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory at night over John Millman, the Australian who upset Roger Federer a year ago in New York.

In women’s action, defending champion and No. 1 seed Naomi Osaka dropped her first five games against 84th-ranked Anna Blinkova, wasted a match point in the second set, then finally put together a 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2 victory.

A couple of years ago, when Gauff was 13, she got a chance to practice with Osaka.

“Her dad and my dad are actually quite cool,” Osaka said Tuesday. “She seems to be doing great.”