By Amy Tennery
NEWYORK (Reuters) – Crowd-pleasing teenager Coco Gauff came through a tough battle with qualifier Timea Babos 6-2 4-6 6-4 on Thursday to set up a third-round clash at the U.S. Open against top seed and defending champion Naomi Osaka.
The 15-year-old American phenom was forced to dig deep to become the youngest player since Anna Kournikova in 1996 to reach the third round of the women’s singles at Flushing Meadows.
“I was tested a lot. I think we both were just testing each other,” Gauff said. “It’s just that type of match where anyone could have won.”
Gauff rode into this year’s tournament with enormous expectations after a dream run at Wimbledon where she beat five-times champion Venus Williams on her way to the fourth round.
A fired up Gauff prevailed after a 12-stroke rally late in the third set to set up a break point opportunity, pumping her fists wildly and shouting in excitement in front of a packed crowd that was firmly on her side.
The pair seemed nearly evenly matched, with wildcard Gauff maintaining a slightly tighter performance and committing 34 unforced errors compared to 42 from Hungarian Babos.
Gauff will face off against 21-year-old Osaka, who also holds the Australian Open title, in the third round of the tournament on Saturday for a clash that may provide a glimpse at the future of the women’s game.
(Reporting By Amy Tennery, editing by Nick Mulvenney)