NEW YORK: American teenager Coco Gauff used her superior speed to overcome a second-set deficit and secure a thrilling 7-5 7-5 victory over China’s Zhang Shuai to reach the quarter-finals of the U.S. Open for the first time.
Serena Williams’ loss on Friday night likely signaling the end of her storied career, American tennis fans are eager to see someone emerge in his place and many have pinned their hopes on the lovable and helpful Gauff.
“It’s crazy,” Gauff said in an on-pitch interview after sealing victory to set up a showdown with in-form Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia on Tuesday.
“I mean, Ashe Stadium chanting my name, I was trying not to smile on the bench during the last substitution, I was trying to stay in the moment. But in my head, I was smiling.
“I can’t believe you sing like that. It’s crazy.”
In a battle between the youngest player remaining in the draw, Gauff, 18, and the oldest, Zhang, 33, it was the Chinese player who looked sharper early on, breaking for a 2-0 lead in the first set.
But 12th seed Gauff kept her composure to come back and fired a two-handed backhand winner to claim the opening set and electrify the crowd in support.
Zhang, a human backback who is content to extend rallies from the baseline, took a 5-3 lead in the second when she beat Gauff with a backhand winner of her own.
But Gauff again showed maturity beyond her years, winning the last four games highlighted by an electrifying point in the final game where she used her astonishing speed to glide from corner to corner to provoke a mistake by Zhang.
The crowd roared in approval after the point, and Zhang plugged his ears to block out the sound, which was amplified by Arthur Ashe Stadium’s closed roof due to rain.
Gauff sealed the deal by nearly two hours on an error by Zhang and the two exchanged a warm hug at the net.
With the win, Gauff became the youngest US Open quarter-finalist since Melanie Oudin in 2009.
She can expect her fans to come back when she faces 17th seed Garcia in the quarters after beating Alison Riske-Amritraj 6-4, 6-1.

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