AAP Tennis

US teen eliminates Open champion Osaka

By AAP Newswire

Coco Gauff is making it her mission to meet Rod Laver after she earned her own piece of history on the arena named after the Australian grand slam champion.

Playing in her first Australian Open, the 15-year-old American stunned the tennis world by eliminating defending champion Naomi Osaka 6-3 6-4 on Friday night.

The Japanese former world No.1 was let down by 30 unforced errors with Gauff holding her nerve to wrap up the match in just over an hour.

Still at school, Gauff set up the win with a devastating serve while her ground strokes were fearless.

She became the youngest player to beat a top five-ranked player and also a major defending champion since Jennifer Capriati, beat then world No.3 Gabriela Sabatini in the 1991 US Open quarter-finals.

She's also the youngest in the Open era to defeat a reigning champion at the Australian Open.

Gauff said she had seen Laver, the only player to twice achieve a grand slam and the owner of 200 singles titles, at Melbourne Park but had been too nervous to say hello.

"If he sees this, tell him we can set up a meet-up some time. I need a selfie for Instagram," Gauff said in a post-match interview.

Laver was quick to respond on Twitter: "Hello @CocoGauff - congratulations on your incredible victory tonight. I would love to meet you too."

Gauff has had a stunning rise in her short career - just over a year ago she was ranked world No.875 and in her last meeting with Osaka, at the US Open, only managed to win three games.

She broke former top-ranked Osaka to go ahead 5-3 in the first set before closing it out.

Gauff then broke again in the first game of the second before Osaka broke back thanks to two double faults by the youngster.

There was a sense that momentum was shifting back the champion's way - but it didn't last long.

Gauff, who trained with Serena Williams in the off-season, refocused to get another break to lead 4-3, which she was able to consolidate.

While a tearful Osaka couldn't get off the court quick enough, Gauff soaked up the win in front of the huge crowd.

"Two years ago I lost first round in juniors and now I'm here - this is crazy," Gauff said.

"Honestly, I was just telling myself one point at a time and keep fighting."

In the round of 16 Gauff will face American 14th seed Sofia Kenin, who ground out a 7-5 7-6 (9-7) win over China's Shuai Zhang

She said she couldn't stay up to watch her opponents as it was too late at night.

And she had homework that she needed to do.

"Probably tomorrow because I want to go to sleep tonight, but my teachers, they're giving me some time because considering the circumstances they're letting me submit some the assignments late so that's OK."