Coco Gauff really enjoyed being the center of attention in New York when she reached the quarter-finals of the US Open for the first time.
The 18-year-old is poised to enter the top 10 for the first time next week and continued her excellent season by beating China’s Zhang Shuai 7-5 7-5 in a high-quality match at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The American has already made her first Grand Slam final this year at the French Open and it would be irresistible if she could win her first title in the tournament where Serena Williams retired.
There is still a long way to go, of course, but Gauff has yet to lose a set and has shown his competitive maturity in a tough battle with Zhang, winning the last four games and saving one set point.
The teenager is already a favorite with the tennis crowd and said: “At the 6-5 gearbox, people would say, ‘Come on, Coco.’ I was literally trying not to smile.
“I have to stay in the area. Inside, I was doing my best not to smile. This is a surreal moment for me, at Arthur Ashe Stadium people are singing my game. I feel like I’m at an NBA game.
“This is a special thing about tennis. Go to a football game or an NBA game, people sing the team name. For you, having the whole crowd chanting your name specifically is something I won’t take for granted.
In the quarter-finals she will face one of the most in-form players of the draw, 28-year-old Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia.
Famously hailed as the future number one in the world by Andy Murray more than a decade ago, Garcia struggled under the weight of expectations and started the season in 74th place.
He is now 17 years old after a brilliant summer that included a run in the fourth round of Wimbledon, beating Emma Raducanu at the start, and three titles, the latest at the prestigious WTA event in Cincinnati.
Garcia’s 6-4 6-1 win over Alison Riske-Amritraj earned her a second career Grand Slam quarter-final five years after reaching the same stadium at home at Roland Garros.
“I don’t feel like the same person I was five years ago,” he said. “Obviously I have learned a lot. I’ve had a hard time in there. I have some experience. We have worked hard to get back to the highest level. I am really happy to be at this level again. Really enjoying ”.
Happiness appears to have been the key to Garcia’s awakening and on Sunday she was able to laugh at losing four match points in a long final match.
“To get victories, it definitely helps to be happy, to know which way you have to play, to be healthy,” he said.
“I understand, and with my team we are seeing so many things we can still improve, so it gives us a purpose to keep improving, to keep working hard. It’s a challenge every day and it’s a reward to be here today, and I’m grateful for all the hard work we’ve done.
“I like to play aggressive tennis, to keep going. I’m having fun, I enjoy playing that way, and what’s more, I’m glad it works and it’s a good way for me. “