NEW YORK -- At the age of 18, Coco Gauff is the second-youngest player left in the women’s draw -- and yet, she’s widely viewed as one of the favorites to win the US Open title, along with top-ranked Iga Swiatek.
The No.12-seeded Gauff scuffled a bit Wednesday, then went on to defeat Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-2, 7-6 (4) in a second-round match in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Reaching the final at Roland Garros has accelerated the expectations surrounding this teenager -- perhaps most importantly in her own mind.
“Getting to a final, I think people expect you to get over that final hurdle, and that’s something I expect of myself too because I know I feel it in me that I can repeat it and do it again,” Gauff said after her first-round win over Leolia Jeanjean. “I didn’t expect myself to be so nervous before the final. Now that I know what to expect, I expect myself to at least do better.”
She recently became the second-youngest WTA doubles No.1 in history and is seeded No.2 alongside Pegula this fortnight. She’s also No.6 in the WTA Race to the Finals for singles players on the strength of advancing to the quarterfinals in Toronto.
Ruse was serving for the second set at 40-15 when Gauff turned up the temperature. On the longest rally of the game (22 strokes), she blistered a backhand crossing shot for a winner and showed some real emotion. Ruse subsequently double-faulted to make it 5-all.
In the tiebreak, a huge backhand sent her into the win column. Gauff has now doubled up in her 2022 match results, winning 32 against 16 defeats. Ruse, a 24-year-old from Romania who is ranked No.101 acquitted herself well.
Gauff, who served up eight double faults, was visibly annoyed with herself on those occasions. She understands it’s something that she needs to clean up going forward.
“Regarding the pressure, I learned in my life that you just have to accept it, you can’t ignore it," she said. "It’s going to be there. You feel it. Everybody else feels it for you. So instead of trying to say, 'I’m not nervous,' I’m saying, 'I am nervous, I do feel pressure, I do feel this.'
“Now once you acknowledge a problem, you can solve it.”
And Gauff wasn’t the only American success on Wednesday. In fact, her next opponent, Madison Keys, was among a group of three seeded Americans that are also through to the third round in bottom-half: Shelby Rogers and Alison Riske-Amritraj and Keys.
Keys, after falling to No.87 in the rankings early this year, has looked like vintage Keys. She beat three consecutive major champions recently in Cincinnati -- Jelena Ostapenko, No.1 Iga Swiatek and Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina -- before losing to a fourth, Petra Kvitova, in the semifinals.
Keys, the No.20 seed defeated Camila Giorgi in a rousing match, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (10-6).
No.29 Alison Riske-Amritraj defeated Camila Osorio 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (10-5) in a match that ran 3 hours, 10 minutes. She won by converting her fifth match point. A finalist this year at Adelaide and Nottingham, Riske-Amritraj reached the third round for the second straight time after a 0-5 drought.
Earlier, No.31 Shelby Rogers defeated Viktoria Kuzmova 7-5, 6-1. In August, Rogers was a finalist in San Jose -- her first final in six years. In 2020, she advanced to the US Open quarterfinals. Next up: No.5 seed Ons Jabeur, a 7-5, 6-2 winner over another American wild card Elizabeth Mandlik.