NEW YORK, NY, USA -- In an intense match between two teenagers making their US Open main-draw debuts, American wildcard Coco Gauff overcame Anastasia Potapova of Russia, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 on Tuesday evening, to reach the second round in New York City.
"It was crazy," an excited Gauff said in her post-match press conference. "Obviously I was nervous going out on the court. It's such a big court. Then my home slam, so I wanted to do well. The crowd really helped me the whole match. Like, it was really a great atmosphere to play in and a great experience for me."
It was the first meeting between two recent junior Grand Slam champions -- Potapova won the girls’ singles at Wimbledon in 2016, while Gauff claimed that crown at Roland Garros in 2018 -- and 15-year-old Gauff got the better of 18-year-old Potapova after just over two hours of dramatic play.
"Honestly, I just wanted to win so bad, I was trying to really dig deep," said Gauff. "I was like, 'You got to make her play. She's not going to hand it to you.' We had a couple long rallies, then I got some winners here and there. Honestly, I mean, I really don't remember the match too well because everything is still a blur."
Gauff, ranked at a career-high World No.140, made another successful debut at a major event, following up on her sensational fourth-round showing in her first appearance in a Grand Slam main draw as a qualifier at Wimbledon. The American won nearly three-quarters of points on her first serve in the match.
World No.72 Potapova converted all five of her break points and saved 12 break points against her, but was broken six times to give Gauff the narrow victory in the end.
— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) August 24, 2019
Gauff recounted that, at the post-match handshake, Potapova "said 'Congratulations, that was amazing.' I said, 'Congratulations, it was a great fight. You played amazing.' I think anyone could have won that match maybe if a point went different or something. She played amazing."
"I think it was a good match on such a big stage so a lot of people could see it," Gauff continued. "She's young, too. She's only a couple years older than me. I know we're going to see each other a lot in the future. I hope we do see each other in the future, but hopefully in the finals, not in the first round."
Potapova hit the ground running in the opening set. The Russian jumped up an early break at 2-0 after a flurry of errors from Gauff, then fended off two break points with tremendous groundstrokes in the following game, before holding for 3-0 with a forehand winner.
Gauff got on the board in the next game but was unable to quell Potapova’s form, as the Russian held for 4-1 with an error-forcing drop volley, after saving two more break points earlier in the game. Potapova then claimed another break to lead 5-1, as Gauff continued to struggle on serve.
The American’s game started to click late in the set, and she cracked a backhand winner crosscourt to claim one break back before holding at love to pull to 5-3. But Gauff missed returns in the next game, allowing Potapova to ease to triple set point, and after a double fault, the Russian forced an error with another fierce forehand to clinch the one-set lead.
In the second set, though, the momentum started to shift in Gauff’s favor, despite falling behind an early break. Gauff returned to level footing at 1-1 on her fourth break point of a pivotal game, and held for 3-2 despite back-to-back double faults to open that game.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 27, 2019
Gauff cracked the set open in the next game, going up a break for the first time in the match at 4-2, after Potapova clipped the netcord with a backhand, sending her shot long while down break point. The American cruised through the set from there, reeling off eight of the final ten points and closing out the second stanza with an overhead winner.
Potapova again went up an early break in the decider, winning an amazing rally on break point with a dropshot winner to clinch the first game. Gauff, though, struck back immediately to level the set at 1-1, and then earned a second break to lead 3-1, polishing off that game with a forehand winner.
Despite facing a 4-1 deficit, the gritty Potapova continued to battle, and got her moment to make a final push after Gauff faltered to allow Potapova back on serve at 4-3. The Russian grinded through a tough service game to hold for 4-4, saving two break points before forcing an error with a down-the-line backhand to reach parity.
Gauff, however, would end up with the final word, as she ended up on top in increasingly grueling rallies more often than not at 5-4, finally reaching double match point on Potapova’s serve. One final long forehand by the Russian ended the tussle, and Gauff bounded into round two at her home Grand Slam event.
In the second round, Gauff will face Hungarian qualifier Timea Babos. Former Top 30 player Babos advanced after her opponent, No.28 seed Carla Suarez Navarro, retired from their match after dropping the first set.