Coco Gauff has lost matches at majors before, but she has still never lost one in a third set. On Wednesday, Gauff improved to 4-0 in deciding sets in Slams with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over Sorana Cirstea.
Gauff won her first three-setter last Wimbledon in one of the year's best matches, a 3-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5 triumph over Polona Hercog. She went 2-0 in three-setters at the US Open, winning her fist-rounder over Anastasia Potapova, and her second-rounder over Timea Babos.
Her fourth win wasn't a matter of recovering from an early stumble and cruising from there on out. Cirstea led Gauff 3-0 in the third set—but once again, the 15-year-old American would not be denied in a decider.
"You really made me believe," an emotional Gauff told the crowd after her latest comeback.
Next up for Gauff is a rematch of a Slam match that didn't come close to reaching a third set. Gauff has already had one big Grand Slam rematch at this year’s Australian Open, facing Venus Williams in the first round, just like at Wimbledon. And now she’ll have another one, after she and Naomi Osaka both won on Wednesday to set up a third-round clash in Melbourne on Friday.
The two played each other in the third round of the US Open last year. Osaka rolled to a 6-3, 6-0 win, but the two still created a viral moment when Osaka invited Gauff to share the on-court interview with her.
“It was definitely a good moment I think for both of us, especially me,” Gauff said. “But more just for the people watching, the little girls watching and little boys who can kind of see what sportsmanship is, really. If I had a child, it’s something I would want my child to see. It shows what being a competitor really is. You might hate the person on the court, but off the court you love them, not really like hate. Sometimes when we’re on the court, we say things we don’t mean because we have that mentality.
“When it’s all said and done, we still look at each other with respect.”
“We played in the same place for a couple of years and we were both doing things,” Osaka said of Gauff. “I would win an ITF match and she’d win in juniors. We were both leveling up at the same time.
“To me it’s really cool to watch her grow, because it’s happened so fast.”
Osaka was the first of the two to advance to the third round on a breezy Wednesday, falling behind 4-2 in the second set but steadying herself to get by China’s Zheng Saisai in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4.
She finished the match with 20 winners and 30 unforced errors.
“It was important to accept that I was going to make a lot of unforced errors, because she’s not the one that’s going to hit winners,” Osaka said. “I also knew she was going to give me a lot of slices. But I wasn’t really expecting the wind—it wasn’t the windiest I’ve played in, but it was a bit hard to adjust.
“I just tried to stay mentally strong, which I don’t think I did that well in the second set, actually.”
The world No. 4 has now won 19 of her last 20 matches at the hard-court Grand Slams.
Gauff had to work a lot harder to book her spot in the third round, coming within two points of losing while serving at 4-5, 15-30 in the decider—and eventually closing out Cirstea after two hours and six minutes on court.
“It’s amazing. Honestly I didn’t think I would get so much support in Australia,” Gauff told the crowd in her on-court interview. “When you guys were cheering for me in this match, when I was down 3-0 in the third set, it’s so emotional. I never thought this would happen, this many people supporting me.”
She was also asked about her fighting spirit in her on-court interview.
“It’s just my will to win,” she said. “But it was especially the crowd, you cheered me back into the match, and my parents—they told me you can always come back, no matter what the score is.”
Gauff, who is now 7-2 in her career at Grand Slams, will be going for her second Top 10 win against Osaka, having previously beaten a No. 8-ranked Kiki Bertens en route to the title in Linz in October
“I mean, I played her at the US Open, so I know what to expect,” Gauff said about Osaka. “She’s a great competitor on and off the court, so I think it’s going to be a good one.”