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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Coco Gauff

Coco Gauff rallied from 0-3 down the decider subduing Sorana Cirstea 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 to set up a rematch with defending AO champion Naomi Osaka.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

Spiking stress and a savvy opponent put Coco Gauff in a pool of problems on Melbourne Arena.

The match seemed to be slipping away, but the 15-year-old phenom plugged into self belief storming through a spirited comeback. 

More: Kvitova Escapes

A fierce Gauff fought back from 0-3, love-30 down the decider subduing Sorana Cirstea 4-6, 6-3, 7-5
to set up a blockbuster Australian Open third-round rematch with defending champion Naomi Osaka.

Playing just the third main-draw major of her career, Gauff rode a wave of support from roaring fans to charge into her third straight Grand Slam third round.

"Oh my gosh it's amazing," Gauff said afterward. "I mean like honestly I didn't think I would get so much support in Australia so really you guys cheering me on in this match [was key].

"I was down 3-0, you really made me believe. And it's really emotional because I never thought this would happen how many people are supporting me so thank you."

The most impressive aspect of Gauff's comeback is she pulled it off on a day in which her best tennis eluded her.

It was passionate—and patchy—performance from Gauff who confronted an experienced opponent and unruly conditions with unrelenting positivy. Gauff committed 39 unforced errors, spit up nine double faults and sometimes struggled to tame her wayward forehand, but her willingness to mix it up, attack net when the opportunity arose and a voracious appetite for the fight sparker her comeback..

Contesting her 45th career Grand Slam, Cirstea came out crunching crosscourt forehands to attack the teenager's forehand, which can be a crackling shot but is not as stable as her two-handed backhand.

Playing a sloppy seventh game, Gauff scattered a backhand down the line wide gifting the break at love.

Striking her forehand confidence, Cirstea confirmed the break for 5-3.

Two games later the Romanian ripped a backhand down the line snatching the first set on the strength of one break

The mark of an accomplished player is the ability to find a way to win when her game isn't fully firing.Gauff scored her first break in the second game of the second set. Carving out a clean drop shot winner, the Delray Beach baseliner held for 4-1, eventually leveling to force the decider. 

Coco Gauff
Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

Resetting, Cirstea cruised through 12 of the first 14 points seizing a 3-0 lead and was two points from a 4-0 lead when Gauff took her game to a higher gear. 

Annoyed when the Romanian held up her hand to slow Gauff's serve, the world No. 67 turned that bit of gamesmanship into fuel for her comeback. Gauff erupted in a massive "come on!" navigating at tough hold. Gauff broke back in the fifth game then leveled at 3-all.

Already one of the fastest women on tour, Gauff streaked forward for a drop shot then slammed a smash breaking for 6-5. The teenager served out a gripping victory in two hours, six minutes.

"Just my will to win [was key] and especially the crowd I think you definitely cheered me back," Gauff said. "My parents told me I can always come back no matter what the score and I think that showed today."

Tennis Express

Also evident is the growth in Gauff's game since Osaka drilled her before a packed crowd under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Afterward, Osaka showed her class and sportsmanship sharing the post-match spotlight with Gauff. Both women are pumped for the rematch.  

"I played her at US Open so I know what to expect," Gauff said of the rematch. "I'm excited for a good match. I think she's a great competitor on and off the court so I think it's gonna be a good one."


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