US Open: Coco Gauff says she had to overcome 'home slam nervousness' to win

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New York, Aug 31 (IANS) World No.21 seed Coco Gauff said that she suffered from ‘home Grand Slam blues’ as the American teenage tennis player triumphed in a thriller on Louis Armstrong Stadium at the US Open on Tuesday (IST), outlasting Magda Linette of Poland, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the second round.

“I was definitely very nervous coming into today’s match just because it’s a first round in your home Slam,” Gauff said after the win. “Honestly I’m glad that I was able to get through it. The crowd, playing in front of the New York fans, definitely is an experience that I’ll never forget.”

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Gauff said that during the second set, “there definitely was a switch” in her level of play. “I think I focused more on having fun.”

In the first meeting between the pair, Gauff needed two hours and 34 minutes to fend off the challenge from 48th-ranked Linette, who is coming off a run to the Cleveland semifinals last week.

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But Gauff did prevail, bettering her performance from last season, where she fell in the first round in Flushing Meadows to Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia. Gauff reached the third round in her US Open debut in 2019.

Next up for Gauff will be a difficult match against seasoned compatriot and former champion Sloane Stephens. Stephens defeated fellow American Madison Keys via a third-set tiebreak in a rematch of the 2017 US Open final.

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Gauff, who has known Stephens since she was a young child, said, “Obviously [Stephens is] a very athletic player and superfast. I know I’m going to have to expect a lot of balls to come back. She’s definitely going to redirect the ball. I think we’re both ready. I think it will be an exciting match.”

2016 US Open champion Angelique Kerber also pulled off a stunning comeback to win her first-round match, as the German overcame Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(3).

In their only prior encounter, Yastremska beat former world No.1 Kerber via retirement en route to the 2020 Adelaide final. But Kerber was able to grind out an incredible victory this time around in nearly two-and-a-half hours, spoiling Yastremska’s first Grand Slam match since the 2020 French Open.

No.16 seed Kerber said after the match, “In the third set, when we played the tiebreak, everything can happen. I was just trying to staying focused, play every single ball as good as I can. I think that it was more for me that I won it mentally today. I’m happy about that, how I came back in the third set.”

Kerber will next face another Ukrainian, Anhelina Kalinina. Kalinina had upset the German in the first round of French Open earlier this year.

Last year’s runner-up Victoria Azarenka ended her first-round match with superb power play, reeling off the final 11 games to defeat Tereza Martincova of the Czech Republic, 6-4, 6-0.

Former world No.1 and two-time Grand Slam champion Azarenka needed an hour and 10 minutes to take down world No.60 Martincova and move into the second round in New York for the 13th time in her career.

No.5 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine also had a quick trip into the second round as she defeated Canadian qualifier Rebecca Marino, 6-2, 6-3 in just over an hour.

–IANS

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