MELBOURNE, Australia – Coco Gauff is looking forward to renewing acquaintances with WTA World No.4 Naomi Osaka when they square off in the third round of the Australian Open.
The 15-year-old debutante has moved through thanks to victories over Venus Williams and Sorana Cirstea, overcoming the Romanian in three sets to tee up an encounter with an opponent she famously met at the same stage of the 2019 US Open.
Following a 6-3, 6-0 defeat in New York, she was consoled by the Japanese in a display of sporting good will that rapidly spread round the globe.
Having admitted to being overwhelmed in New York, Gauff, who won the Upper Austria Ladies Linz in October to become the youngest winner on the WTA Tour since 2004, says she will approach this meeting with a different mindset.
“I think I'll be less nervous this time,” she said. “At the US Open I was nervous. It was my first time on Ashe.
“For sure I’ll be more confident because I’ve felt her ball before.
“We're both familiar with each other's games. She plays really aggressive. This time coming in I'm going to be more aggressive.”
The American, who is the WTA World No.67, believes that she has everything to gain when she meets the two-time major winner.
“I think in general my mindset has always been nothing to lose really,” she said. “Even when I was in juniors, even though I was ranked pretty high and I was technically supposed to win, I still felt like I had nothing to lose.
“I still feel that now. I think my mindset just is I'm going to fight. If I lose, the world is not going to end. I'm going to have another match in maybe a week or so.
“I think it's just less pressure to win. I feel like for me, I'm not trying to win so much but trying to play my best tennis on the court. Winning comes with that if I play good.”
She also reflected on Osaka’s reaction following the US Open match between the players, in which the 22-year-old branded her younger rival "amazing".
“It was definitely a good moment for both of us, especially me,” she said. “But I think more just for the people watching, the little girls watching and little boys who can kind of see what sportsmanship is really.
“I think that's something I would want my child to see. It just shows what being a competitor really is. You might hate the person on the court, but off the court you love them. Not hate, but you want to win. Sometimes when we're on the court, we say things we don't mean because we have that mentality.
“When it's all said and done, we still look at each other with respect and the same.”