US Open: Gauff survives early onslaught to beat Elise Mertens to set up Wozniacki clash in last 16

The American teen won against Elise Mertens 3-6, 6-3, 6-0. She’ll play Caroline Wozniacki in the next round in an enticing inter-generational clash

Coco Gauff US Open 2023 Coco Gauff – Antoine Couvercelle / Panoramic
US Open •Third round • completed
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Coco Gauff recovered from a set and break points down to overcome a spirited challenge from Elise Mertens, beating the Belgian 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 to advance to the last 16 of the US Open.

After an even start that saw both players navigate their way to 3-3, Mertens made the first move by breaking in the seventh game as some early nerves began to creep into Gauff’s game.

The rest of the set flew by as the Belgian held and then broke again to accelerate to a 6-3 opening set win.

Gauff displays fighting spirit with back firmly up against the wall

World No 6 Gauff then saved five break points in a lengthy opening service game in the second set, with her back firmly against the wall as she struggled to convert her service points, winning only around 25% of points played behind her second serve.

However, with the help of a timely ace, Gauff weathered the storm to earn a huge hold and keep Mertens at bay. It turned out to be a pivotal shift in momentum as the world No 6 then proceeded to break Mertens in the next game to move 2-1 ahead.

Coco Gauff US Open 2023
Coco Gauff at the US Open 2023 Icon/SMI Panoramic

The serving struggles continued for Gauff, however, who was broken straight back in the next game.

But the Cincinnati champion showed the sort of form she is in by breaking again in the seventh game, asking a raucous Arthur Ashe crowd for more noise on gaining the break.

Gauff then fended off a sixth break point of the set to hold serve and move 5-3 up, before breaking again to level up the scores at one set apiece.

A one-sided decider sees the American through

What should have been a gripping decider ultimately proved something of an anti-climax.

Gauff used the momentum from the end of the second set as a springboard to propel herself into an early lead in the third.

Having held her opening service game, the American then broke Mertens’ serve to love before holding again to move into a 3-0 lead.

Disappointingly for Mertens, the Belgian’s serve had deserted her and she was swiftly broken again in the fourth game before Gauff duly held to move into a 5-0 lead in the blink of an eye in front of an audibly relieved Arthur Ashe crowd.

As the conclusion seemed increasingly inevitable, Gauff turned the screw in the final game. Despite taking a fall at 30-30, she then broke for a third time in the set to take it on a bagel and with it, the match.

It was another testing night under the lights on Arthur Ashe for the American, having also fallen a set down in her opening-round encounter against Siegemund.

But the Citi Open and Cincinnati champion displayed the type of grit and tenacity that has yielded such a successful North American hard-court swing this summer, displaying her ability and willingness to fight when the going gets tough.

“Thank you guys so much. The energy today definitely helped me,” Gauff said in her on-court post-match interview. When you lose the first set, you have to show that you’ve left all the energy in the first and you’re ready to play. After I lost the first set, I told myself ‘there’s still a lot of game left and a lot of the match to play’.”

“I was playing well in the second set. I think after the 2-3 game, yeah, I moved straight through. I think I established my game plan. In the third, I was playing great tennis. I think the match was really physical the first two sets even though the scoreline doesn’t show that,” Gauff said in her post-match interview. “In the third I was just trying to fight for every point. Yeah, that’s how I was able to get through that match.”

Captivating battle with Caroline Wozniacki now confirmed

Gauff’s reward for making it to the second week of her home Grand Slam is the utterly captivating prospect of an inter-generational match-up against Caroline Wozniacki, who is playing her first major since coming out of retirement just a month ago.

It will be the biggest test of the campaign for each player, both of whom can lay a strong claim to the title based on their performances so far.

Come Sunday, something will have to give as either the teenage talent or the re-emerging legend will advance to the quarter-finals of the final slam of the year.

New York (Grand Slam), other third-round results (USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, hard, USD 44.700.000, most recent results first):

  • Ekaterina Alexandrova vs. Marketa Vondrousova
  • Ons Jabeur vs. Marie Bouzkova
  • Katie Boulter vs. Peyton Stearns
  • Qinwen Zheng vs. Lucia Bronzetti
  • Elina Svitolina vs. Jessica Pegula
  • Liudmila Samsonova vs. Madison Keys
  • Clara Burel vs. Aryna Sabalenka
  • Daria Kasatkina vs. Greet Minnen
  • Elena Rybakina vs. Sorana Cirstea: saturday
  • Lin Zhu vs. Belinda Bencic: saturday
  • Caroline Wozniacki beat Jennifer Brady: 4-6, 6-3, 6-1
  • Jelena Ostapenko (20) beat Bernarda Pera: 4-6, 6-3, 6-3
  • Iga Swiatek (1) beat Kaja Juvan (Q): 6-0, 6-1
  • Xinyu Wang beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova: 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
  • Karolina Muchova (10) beat Taylor Townsend: 7-6, 6-3

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