Taylor Townsend, of the United States, reacts after defeating Sorana Cirstea, of Romania, during round three of the US Open tennis championships Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Sarah Stier)

Coco Gauff seeks to join American charge to Open 4th round

August 31, 2019 - 7:14 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — Taylor Townsend had fallen so far in tennis that she even quit. Kristie Ahn was supposed to, even agreeing with her parents on a deadline to give up.

They not only stuck with it, but now they're headed to the second week of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

Coco Gauff is trying to join them.

Townsend and Ahn won third-round matches Saturday at the U.S. Open and another young American hoped to when the 15-year-old Gauff faced defending champion Naomi Osaka.

Gauff was trying to duplicate her thrilling run to the fourth round at Wimbledon but to do so would have to get past the No. 1 ranked player under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where Osaka beat Serena Williams in last year's final for her first major title.

"I think it will be a really interesting match," Williams said a day earlier. "I definitely am interested to watch."

On a day Rafael Nadal and Marin Cilic set up a fourth-round meeting of former U.S. Open champions, a couple of American women continued their surprising runs at Flushing Meadows.

Two days after upsetting Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, Townsend stuck to her aggressive game plan and beat Sorana Cirstea 7-5, 6-2, repeatedly rushing the net to set up easy volleys and smashes.

"I just tried to do what I did in the last round and tried to get better," Townsend said.

Townsend came forward 75 times against Cirstea, amassing a 47-8 advantage in net points won. That style got her past Halep, the No. 4 seed, and never let Cirstea come back in a match that lasted less than 90 minutes.

Hard to believe she had once fallen so far, watching her ranking plummet from inside the top 100 at the start of 2015 to outside the top 300 by the end of it. Unable to get into big tournaments anymore, she gave up tennis — though only for three days.

"I went one year and I won four matches in a calendar year," she said.

Townsend's previous best result at a major tournament was when she reached the third round at the 2014 French Open at age 18. She next faces No. 15 seed Bianca Andreescu, who beat No. 19 Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-4.

Andreescu missed most of the summer because of a shoulder injury but the Canadian returned to win the title in Toronto earlier this month. She hasn't lost a singles match since March, though fell in the first round of women's doubles on Friday to Townsend's team.

"I kind of know what to expect. I know she loves coming to the net. She has incredible volleys," Andreescu said. "I'll for sure work on some passing shots tomorrow during my practice."

Ahn also added to her best performance in a Grand Slam by beating 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 7-5. Ahn qualified for the U.S. Open in 2008 at 16 but then went to play collegiately at Stanford, helping the Cardinal win the 2013 national championship, and didn't get back to another major until the 2018 Australian Open. She lost in qualifying at Flushing Meadows the last three years before earning a wild card this summer.

Her parents agreed to support her until 2017, with the understanding she'd stop if she hadn't made it in tennis.

She never did.

"I've heard so many people regret not striving for their dreams," she said.

Nadal reached the fourth round in his 13th straight Grand Slam with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over qualifier Hyeon Chung, a 2018 Australian Open semifinalist who has been slowed since by injuries. Nadal hadn't played since Tuesday after receiving a walkover in his second-round match, but the three-time champion didn't show any rust in a match he finished in just 1 hour, 59 minutes.

"Now is the moment to push, to make a step forward if I want to give me a chance to fight for the important things," Nadal said.

He'll next do it against Cilic, the No. 22 seed who beat 14th-seeded John Isner 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4 in the only third-round match in the upset-filled men's tournament between two seeded players.

No. 6 Alexander Zverev reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open for the first time, and No. 28 Nick Kyrgios could do the same when he played 2017 quarterfinalist Andrey Rublev in a night match.

The women's field lost a top-10 seed when No. 7 Kiki Bertens was beaten 6-2, 6-3 by 26th seed Julia Goerges.

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