Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 6 July 2020

Australian Open: Coco Gauff shows true grit to set up showdown with champion Naomi Osaka

American teenager Gauff, showing a tenacity which is becoming her trademark, clawed her way back from a set down to beat the experienced Sorana Cirstea 4-6, 6-3, 7-5

Coco Gauff, the fifteen-year-old prodigy, continued her fairy-tale run at the Australian Open to set up a blockbusting third round match against defending champion Naomi Osaka on Wednesday.

American teenager Gauff, showing a tenacity which is becoming her trademark, clawed her way back from a set down to beat the experienced Sorana Cirstea 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

In the men's half of the draw, Novak Djokovic took a step closer to an eighth Melbourne title with a straight sets victory over Japanese wildcard Tatsuma Ito.

Gauff, who celebrated in her now customary fist pump as she completed her victory, showed an iron will to come back from a set down to overcome her more experienced Romanian opponent.

"My parents always told me you can always come back - no matter what the score is," said Gauff, who beat seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams in her first round match.

Japan's Osaka, 22, beat China's Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-4 but briefly lost her cool mid-match, hurling and kicking her racquet when she gave up a break in the second set.

The two-time Grand Slam champion also tossed away a ball and slammed the racquet down again as she slumped to her chair, covering her head with her towel.

"I was thinking that I really don't want to play a third set this time," explained Osaka.

"My racquet just magically flew out of my hand," Osaka said mischievously, smiling.

"I couldn't control it, I think that's how I dealt with my frustration.

"It was a bit childish. I just want to play one match without throwing my racquet or kicking it. That's all I want."

Former world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki, held off retirement for one more match at least as she came from behind in both sets for a 7-5, 7-5 win over Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine.

Neil Diamond's hit Sweet Caroline rang around a blustery Margaret Court Arena after the Dane nailed her sixth match point to reach round three.

She plays Ons Jabeur of Tunisia on Friday.

"It's a little bit emotional for me," said Wozniacki, the 2018 Australian Open winner who announced in December that this would be her final tournament.

"The crowd really got behind me so that was so special. Thank you everyone for coming out today, it really means a lot to me," she added, fighting back tears.

Home favourite and world No 1 Ashleigh Barty raced through 6-1, 6-4 against Polona Hercog, buoying hopes of a first home winner since 1978.

"It was very different end to end, I think the wind was a massive factor particularly with the new ball," she said.

Djokovic also weathered the breeze - which follows heavy rain on Monday, and smog from bushfires last week - to beat Ito 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in 95 minutes.

"Credit to him for fighting till the end, the second set was pretty close," said the reigning title-holder Djokovic, who is seeking to become only the third man to win eight or more titles at the same Grand Slam after Rafael Nadal (12 at Roland Garros) and Roger Federer (eight at Wimbledon).

"They were tough conditions, pretty windy and it was hard to know where the balls were going. My serve helped a lot to get me out of trouble."

His reward is a clash against another Japanese, Yoshihito Nishioka, who beat Britain's Dan Evans in three sets.

Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas was handed a slice of fortune when Philipp Kohlschreiber withdrew injured, giving the sixth seed a bye into the third round.

In other results, Petra Kvitova, last year's runner-up, came through 7-5, 7-5 against Paula Badosa of Spain, and China's Zhang Shuai ousted American Caty McNally 6-2, 6-4.

Among eight first-round matches held over from Tuesday, after rain wiped out half of Monday's schedule, Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro upset Belarusian 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets.

Later in Melbourne, Serena Williams plays her second-round match against Slovenia's Tamara Zidansek, with Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam titles in her sight, and Roger Federer faces Serbia's Filip Krajinovic.

Updated: January 22, 2020 11:32 AM

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