US teen Gauff seeks another deep Slam run at US Open

US 15-year-old Cori "Coco" Gauff faces big expectations at the US Open after a run to the fourth round at Wimbledon in her Grand Slam debut (AFP Photo/Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS)
US 15-year-old Cori "Coco" Gauff faces big expectations at the US Open after a run to the fourth round at Wimbledon in her Grand Slam debut (AFP Photo/Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS)

New York (AFP) - Coco Gauff's run to the fourth round at Wimbledon at age 15 has convinced her top rivals, and US Open officials, that she deserves a main draw wildcard.

Gauff will make her US Open debut on Tuesday afternoon at Louis Armstrong Stadium against Russia's 76th-ranked Anastasia Potapova.

"I don't really put expectations on myself," Gauff said. "I just feel like whatever happens happens."

Gauff, ranked 141st, played and won her first WTA match in March at Miami, received a wildcard into Wimbledon qualifying, then battled through to become the youngest main draw player in history at the All England Club.

She upset 44th-ranked Venus Williams in the opening round in her Grand Slam debut, dispatched Magdalena Rybarikova and then saved two match points in ousting Polona Hercog to reach the last 16, where her dream run was ended by eventual champion Simona Halep.

"We can say she might have pressure, that she's very young, but also, she has nothing to lose, being so young," Halep said Friday. "So I see only positive in her way now.

"If she just controls the emotions and the fact that the people are talking about her, she's going to be very good."

Gauff played her first post-Wimbledon matches at Washington, qualifying for the main draw by falling to Zarina Diyas in the first round but paired with Caty McNally to win the doubles title, her first WTA crown.

The WTA limits how many wildcards she can receive, a rule designed to ease the pressure upon girls until they are older.

But the US Open decided Coco could cope.

"We're aware of and supportive of the age eligibility rule that the WTA has," tournament director David Brewer said. "We understand that works beautifully in a week-on, week-out situation through the course of the year of the tour.

"At the same time, our wildcard committee takes into account performance through the course of the year, and the opportunity for a player to come on a big stage perhaps a little bit sooner than normally the WTA would allow.

"Our wildcard committee is comfortable that Coco can handle it and that's why she was awarded the wildcard."

That's what Gauff was hoping for when she departed Washington.

"Going forward to the US Open, I'm just going to work on being more aggressive, pressing myself a little bit more," she said.

"I think I second guess myself too much on the court. That also comes with playing more matches, too."

Top-seeded defending US Open champion Naomi Osaka of Japan, who turned professional at 15, saw no worries about Gauff -- her possible third-round opponent -- getting into a main draw so young.

"She's American. She played so well in Wimbledon. Why wouldn't she play here? No, I don't get that. Come on," Osaka said.

"This is such a good experience for her. She obviously deserves to play here. She played well in Wimbledon. She's super young. I don't see how it would harm her at all."

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