By HOWARD FENDRICH
AP Tennis Writer
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Showing so much poise for a 15-year-old, Coco Gauff kept digging herself out of deficits and eventually prevailed to reach the Australian Open’s third round, setting up yet another Grand Slam showdown against Naomi Osaka.
Less than five months after their memorable meeting at the U.S. Open — Osaka won that one in straight sets, then consoled a crying Gauff and encouraged her to address the crowd — the two will meet again. Like that time, Osaka is the major’s reigning champion and Gauff is making her debut at the tournament.
“I know what to expect,” Gauff said. “I’m excited for a good match.”
She was not at her very best Wednesday against Sorana Cirstea but managed to figure her way out of trouble, over and over and over again, to produce a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over more than two hours.
Gauff dropped the first set. After forcing things to a third, she trailed by a break at 3-0. Even after getting back to 3-all, Gauff needed to get through one more gut-check: Twice, she was two points from losing.
But the American teenager broke in the next-to-last game, then held to win and showed the sort of emotion she had for much of the match, leaning forward and pumping her fist.
How did Gauff get through this test?
“Just my will to win,” she said. “My parents, they always told me I can come back, no matter what the score is.”
Earlier, Osaka worked through some frustrations by grabbing her racket with both hands and chucking it to the ground, tossing away a tennis ball and then kicking that racket, to boot.
Then she gathered herself and defeated Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-4.
In another notable result early on Day 3, 2018 champion Caroline Wozniacki moved on in a tournament she has announced will be the last of her career, erasing big deficits in each set for a 7-5, 7-5 victory against Dayana Yastremska.
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