Serena Williams at the US Open: Live Updates

On Thursday, Coco Gauff saw a souvenir photo from five years ago. She had the caption “sidelines” at Arthur Ashe Stadium while she had seen one of her idols, Venus Williams, play.

“I was trying to show my friends that I had seats on the sidelines, and now I’m on the pitch,” Gauff laughed in the post-match interview.

The day after that fifth anniversary, number 12 seeded Gauff easily defeated 20th seed, Madison Keys, 6-2, 6-3, and warmed up the pitch at Arthur Ashe Stadium for the second time this week. for his other idol, Serena Williams, who was supposed to play at 7pm. The win avenged a defeat Gauff suffered against Keys in Adelaide, Australia in January.

“I just told myself I’m going to swing down,” Gauff said. “Last time, I think I got a little passive, so he just overwhelmed me, and today I was like, I’m not going to let that happen.”

Serena Williams and Gauff are in the lower half of the single’s scoreboard. Gauff has closely followed Williams’ games, not only because she is one of her favorite players and Gauff’s biggest inspiration, but also because she hopes to face her.

“It has been a dream of mine all my life,” said Gauff.

Gauff will face Shuai Zhang, who is ranked 36th in the women’s singles and defeated Rebecca Marino on Friday, in the fourth round.

Round four is the furthest single Gauff has achieved at the US Open. Three years ago, Gauff, then 15, left the field in tears when she was overwhelmed by Naomi Osaka, then number 1 in the world, in the third round. Fighting through tears in the post-match interview Osaka suggested she do, Gauff later said she would learn from defeat.

Credit…Cj Gunther / EPA, via Shutterstock

He has since lost in the first and second rounds at the Open, but showed his evolution on the pitch on Friday. Gauff, now 18, looked like a self-confident veteran, wore her signature “Coco CG1” shoe in blue, pink and pale green and responded to anything Keys threw at her.

After Keys won the opening game of the first set, Gauff won six of the next seven to take the set. Victory didn’t come as easily as the game differential would indicate, however, as Keys forced Gauff to run across the field and pull shots from grueling angles.

In the second game, both fought to secure a win, constantly coming back from a two-way lead. When Keys forced Gauff to seemingly run all over the field with powerful punches and with Gauff in the lead, it seemed like the game was returning to two. But Gauff connects with a near-net forehand that landed just behind Keys to catch the match and let out an emphatic yell as the crowd roared with her.

Gauff, one of the most popular players in tennis, had a significant advantage over the crowd during her first two games, receiving stadium roars when she wins and sighs of disappointment when her opponent gets the better of her. Friday was slightly different as the crowd constantly celebrated Keys, an American colleague. It was a luxury that Gauff’s other opponents did not appreciate. Three brothers sitting next to each other near the pitch seemed to have a game of their own as one yelled, “Go Madison!” as loud as possible while another yelled, “Go, Coco!”

The cheers for Keys faded, however, when he threw a ball and let out a frustrated scream as the crowd cheered for Gauff. Then she recovered, and so the crowd screamed too, winning that game and the next to bring the total to 4-3 in the second set. But Keys’ run ended there and Gauff dominated the rest of the set by winning the match.

Gauff and Zhang met once in single. Gauff won, 7-6 (1), 7-5, at the Miami Open in March. Last year, they faced off in doubles when Zhang and Samantha Stosur won the US Open women’s doubles title over Gauff and Caty McNally.

Zhang, 33, remembers Gauff’s talent from the Miami match and how Gauff’s younger brother was cheering in the stands. She said it was hard for her to imagine Gauff, who reached the French Open final earlier this year, who lost to Iga Swiatek at 18 because he remembers her as the “14, 15” that he was starting to play professionally. And since she makes her feel old, she added.

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