Gauff Outlasts Cirstea At Australian Open, Serena Wins; Pliskova, Halep Headline Thurs.
by Staff | January 22nd, 2020, 8:20 am
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Coco Gauff continues to amaze. The 15-year-old sensation was down 0-3, 0-30 in the third set to veteran Sorana Cirstea but somehow came back to beat the Romanian 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 on a blustery day to reach the third round at the Australian Open.

Down in the third, the Delray native locked in cut down on errors and found her mark, cracking winners off both wings. Then avoided peril as Cirstea was two points from the win on Gauff’s serve at 4-5, 30-all. The youngster is a perfect 4-0 in Grand Slam third sets.

“I was just trying to stay calm mostly and stay positive. I’ve always believed that I can come back regardless of the score,” Gauff said.

“II think it was 0-30, that’s when I think I kind of changed everything and decided to be more aggressive.”

She’ll now face defending champion Naomi Osaka in the third round on Friday. Osaka beat Shuai Zhang winning the last four games for a 6-2, 6-4 victory. Osaka beat Gauff 6-3, 6-0 in New York last September.

“I think I’ll be less nervous this time,” Gauff said of the rematch. “I think US Open I was nervous. It was my first time on Ashe.

“We’re both familiar with each other’s games. She plays really aggressive. This time coming in I’m going to be more aggressive.”

In the evening, tournament favorite Serena Williams was tested a bit but advanced past a pesky Tamara Zidansek 6-2, 6-3. The 22-year-old Slovenian pushed Serena early in the second before the former No. 1 regained control.

“Everyone plays me like that though, so it’s nothing new,” Serena said. “I was up 40-0 on both of her serves, so I was frustrated. I hit many errors and had to battle through my own internal problems.

“I knew I had to play better, I couldn’t keep making unforced errors like that. I knew I had to step up, or it was going to be a really long evening for me.”

Serena now faces Wang Qiang with a possibility of meeting good friend Caroline Wozniacki in the fourth round.

The former champion Wozniacki put retirement on hold for another day by coming back on the in-form Dayana Yastremska. The Ukrainian teen ran out to a 5-1 lead only to blow it and drop the first set. Yastremska led 3-0 in the second and again fell apart as Wozniacki took it 7-5, 7-5 over the 19-year-old who beat her last summer in Cincinnati.

“She came out swinging, making the lines and everything was going in, even balls that I don’t think she knew were possible to hit it that way,” said Wozniacki.

“I was just thinking to myself, it surely can’t continue. If it’s going to continue, then there is not much I can do out there.”

Home hope and world No. 1 Ash Barty rolled past Polona Hercog 6-1, 6-4.

“Obviously today was very special,” Barty told the crowd. “It was a clean match, really happy to get out of that one.

A runner-up a year ago, Petra Kvitova opened the day on Rod Laver by eliminating Paula Badosa 7-5, 7-5.

The surging Elena Rybakina also was a winner along with Sofia Kenin, Heather Watson, Julia Goerges and former semifinalist Elise Mertens who won her first round match.

No. 11 Aryna Sabalenka fell in her rain-delayed opener to Carla Suarez Navarro.

Madison Keys was on late against Arantxa Rus.

As the second round concludes Thursday, Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep, Belinda Bencic and Angelique Kerber are in action.

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