Coco Gauff won the final 10 games of her match against Elise Mertens, completing a 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 comeback and reaching the U.S. Open round of 16, where she will face Caroline Wozniacki on Sunday.
The American appeared in big trouble at the outset of the match as the Belgian smartly changed up the pace of her shots to frustrate the teenager, who was broken for a second time when her forehand went long on set point.
Mertens relished her opportunity to play the spoiler in front of a sold-out Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd firmly in Gauff’s corner, quieting the increasingly tense fans after smacking a first set winner.
After some exchanges of breaks early in the second set Gauff seized the momentum for good when she broke for a 4-3 lead, pumping her arms and pointing to her ear when her backhand winner leveled the contest at a set apiece.
The third set was all one-way traffic as Gauff’s speedy defense, pinpoint serving and terrific play at the net overwhelmed former two-time quarterfinalist Mertens.
Wozniacki wins battle of comeback queens to reach U.S. Open fourth round
Next up for sixth seed Gauff is an enticing first meeting with returning veteran Wozniacki, who came from behind in similar fashion and by a similar score line earlier in the day to see off American Jennifer Brady 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Wozniacki and Brady have been the feel-good stories at Flushing Meadows and their storylines converged on a sun-kissed Arthur Ashe Stadium court with the 33-year-old Dane continuing her dazzling return by reaching the last 16.
It seemed improbable just weeks ago that ex-world number one Wozniacki, back playing competitive tennis’s after a three-year break to raise a family, and Brady, rising star and Australian Open finalist in 2021 but sidelined for two years with knee and foot injuries, would face each other at a major.
But 28-year-old Brady, just four tournaments into her comeback, and Wozniacki, playing in her third, looked as if they had never been away by treating fans to some quality tennis that at times had the crowd on their feet.
However it was Wozniacki, twice a U.S. Open finalist, who showed more fitness and a little less competitive rust, winning 11 of 12 games after dropping the opening set.
“I guess I always had the belief in myself,” said Wozniacki. “It takes a little time just to get back into the match rhythm. I felt like I had a great rhythm. I was working on my fitness to get back into good shape.
“Knowing what I’ve experienced throughout my career, I knew where I was at. Would I have been surprised had I lost in the first round? No. Would I be surprised if I keep winning? Also no.
“If I play my best tennis, I know I’m tough to beat. Someone really has to play well.”
Having traded early breaks, the opener was decided when Wozniacki, serving at 4-5 and trying to extend the set, suddenly found herself in a 0-40 hole and took out her frustration on her racket by repeatedly smashing it onto the court.
Brady added to that irritation with a quick break to snatch the opener.
Going down a break in the second to trail 2-0, Wozniacki appeared in deep trouble but dug in to easily win the second set and race to 5-0 lead in the third.
Brady stopped the tailspin by holding for 5-1 but the result was inevitable, with Wozniacki next facing the winner of the match between American sixth seed Coco Gauff and Belgian Elise Mertens.
“I can’t really compare her level before or after coming back from retirement,” said Brady after facing Wozniacki for the first time. “I’m sure she’s been training a lot, getting fitter, stronger. I mean, it was good enough to beat me today.”
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