Coco wins again at U.S. Open, setting up showdown with Osaka

Coco Gauff is still not quite used to hearing her name shouted by thousands of U.S. Open spectators reveling in each booming serve, each “How did she do that?” shot and each victory by a 15-year-old American who is the youngest woman in the U.S. Open’s third round since 1996.

Imagine what things might be like for what comes next: a showdown against No. 1 seed and defending champion Naomi Osaka on Saturday.

“For me,” Gauff said, “it’s still wild.”

Proving her captivating run to Week 2 at Wimbledon was no fluke, Gauff improved to 5-1 in her nascent, two-tournament Grand Slam career by edging Timea Babos of Hungary 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 at a rollicking Louis Armstrong Stadium on Thursday night.

“This is just the beginning, I promise,” Gauff told the appreciative crowd that serenaded her with “Let’s go, Coco!” at the final changeover.

When play resumed, Gauff broke Babos’ serve to end a second consecutive three-set win.

“I was thinking, like, maybe they feel like I’m Golden State in Game 7 or something. It’s different, because you’re an individual player, so it’s weird, I guess. Most of the time you hear the chants, it’s for a whole team, not just for, like, me,” she said. “So it was pretty cool.”

Not since Anna Kournikova did it 23 years ago had someone who was 15 made it this far at Flushing Meadows.

Gauff covered the court so well, tracking down shot after shot from Babos, running so fast and so fearlessly that she ended up face-down on court after falling.

She pounded serves at up to 118 mph, recording nine aces, and mixed in drop shots, passing winners and all manner of other magic to great effect.

“A 15-year-old girl with power on the serve like this — I wish I had that when I was younger,” said Babos, a 26-year-old ranked 112th in singles and seeded No. 1 in doubles in New York. “If she continues like this, it’s definitely a very bright future.”

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