Coco Gauff used her superior speed to overcome a second-set deficit and clinch a thrilling 7-5, 7-5 win over China’s Zhang Shuai to reach the quarter-finals of the US Open for the first time.
In a battle between the youngest player left in the draw, the 18-year-old Gauff, and the oldest, the 33-year-old Zhang, it was the Chinese player who looked sharper at the outset, breaking for a 2-0 lead in the first set. But 12th seed Gauff battled back and fired a backhand winner to claim the first set and electrify her home crowd.
Zhang, a human backboard content to extend rallies from the baseline, grabbed a 5-3 lead when she broke Gauff with a backhand winner of her own in the second set. But Gauff remained poised, breaking back to take a 6-5 lead and winning the point of the match with her astonishing speed when she slid from corner to corner to elicit the error from Zhang.
The crowd roared in approval, chanting Gauff’s name, and Zhang covered her ears to block out the sound, which was amplified by the closed roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“It feels insane. I mean, Ashe Stadium chanting my name?” Gauff, yet to drop a set in the tournament, said during her on-court interview. “I was trying not to smile on the bench on the changeover. I was trying to stay in the moment.”
Gauff sealed the nearly two-hour affair on an error by Zhang and the two exchanged a warm hug at the net.
Now Gauff will move on to face the No 17 seed, Caroline Garcia of France, who is playing as well as anyone at the moment, coming off a hard-court title at Cincinnati right before play began in New York.
Garcia eliminated Alison Riske-Amritraj of the US 6-4, 6-1 to, like, Gauff, earn her debut berth in the US Open quarter-finals. Indeed, none of the eight women in action Sunday had ever been past the fourth round at Flushing Meadows before; only two have ever been to the semi-finals at any grand slam tournament: Gauff and No 5 Ons Jabeur, once apiece.