Coco Gauff faces 16-year-old Russian sensation next at French Open

AP photo by Aurelian Morissard / Coco Gauff plays a shot against Julia Grabher during a French Open second-round match Thursday in Paris.

PARIS — Coco Gauff thought she was about to head out onto the clay for her second-round match Thursday at the French Open.

"I was probably about 70% done with my warmup," said Gauff, the 19-year-old American who was the runner-up at Roland Garros a year ago.

Made sense: In the contest preceding hers in Court Suzanne Lenglen, No. 8 seed Jannik Sinner was serving for the victory while up 5-4 in the fourth set against Daniel Altmaier. Then Sinner was one point away.

Except he couldn't convert that match point — he had a chance for a putaway overhead, and instead basically sent the ball right at Altmaier, whose forehand in response hit the top of the net tape and fluttered past Sinner — or another that arrived soon after.

They would play on for another 1 hour, 43 minutes, until Altmaier finally cashed in his own fifth match point with a 111 mph ace down the middle to seal the 6-7 (0), 7-6 (7), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5 victory.

"A great turnaround," said Altmaier, who cried and cried after the nearly 5 1/2-hour marathon. "The emotions were crazy."

So how did Gauff whittle away the time? Watching as Altmaier pulled off the comeback against Sinner, for one thing. Snacking, for another, on a fruit salad — made by her dad — of cantaloupe, pineapple and watermelon. And, finally, resting.

"I almost fell asleep in the middle of the fifth," Gauff said. "I was like, 'I wish I could see the future,' because I probably would have taken a nap in the fourth."

After the delay, Gauff ended up beating Julia Grabher 6-2, 6-3 in 68 minutes. Next for the young American is a third-round matchup Saturday against 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva of Russia.

Andreeva is the latest teen sensation in tennis, the youngest player to win a match in the women's main draw at the French Open since 2005. Do the math: That's before she was born.

The 143rd-ranked Andreeva made her way through qualifying rounds last week without dropping a set to earn her debut berth in the women's bracket at a Grand Slam tournament, and she still is making things look easy so far in Paris. A 6-1, 6-2 victory over Diane Perry of France in 77 minutes on Thursday put her in the third round; that followed a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Alison Riske-Amritraj of the United States that lasted 56 minutes.

Now she'll try to challenge No. 6 seed Gauff, who made her initial breakthrough in major tennis by beating Venus Williams en route to the fourth round at Wimbledon at age 14. Gauff is one of just 12 seeded women left in the field, the fewest to reach the third round at Roland Garros since the number of seeds expanded to 32 in 2002.

Andreeva and Gauff have practiced together, but that won't mean much Saturday.

"The practice and the match is different, so I might also play different," Andreeva said. "I don't know. Who knows?"

Andreeva has played terrifically clean tennis so far, including making a total of 15 unforced errors to 38 for Parry and winning 14 of 21 points that lasted at least nine strokes.

"Really solid for her age. She did everything better than me today," said the 79th-ranked Parry, who made it to the third round at two majors last season. "She doesn't miss a lot. Like nothing. You never have an easy point. It's always a long rally."

Before arriving in Paris, Andreeva showed what she can do by eliminating three players ranked in the WTA Tour's top 40 at the Madrid Open, another clay court tourney. On Thursday, during a news conference filled with one-liners, she was asked what the secret is to success at such a young age.

"Maybe, as my coach says, to not be like a diva. To stay humble all the time," said Andreeva, whose older sister, Erika, lost in the first round at Roland Garros this week.

And then Andreeva demonstrated what she meant by disputing the very premise of the question.

"I don't think that I have a lot of success now," she said, resting her cheek on her right hand. "I didn't win any tournaments. I just play."

All righty, then.

Yes, Andreeva has lofty aims. Asked to define what her dreams are in her sport, she mentioned that Novak Djokovic has 22 Grand Slam titles.

"So I want to go," Andreeva said, "until 25."

Out of the mouths of babes, eh?

Andreeva is supposed to occupy herself with homework for her online courses — "Chemistry is so bad," came the lament — and a reporter wanted to know how she spends her idle time.

"I don't have any hobbies. I think I'm like a usual teenager. I love to watch some TV series when I have free time," Andreeva said, before offering another punchline: "I also have to do my school, but let's be honest, I don't do it sometimes."

Her favorite tennis players amount to a three-way tie between Roger Federer ("He's always been my No. 1"), Rafael Nadal ("I don't know why, but in my head, everything turned" when Nadal won his 14th French Open title last year) and Djokovic ("I don't want to offend Novak").

In the match before Andreeva versus Perry at Court Simonne Mathieu, another qualifier made it to the third round when Kayla Day, a 23-year-old Californian ranked 138th, knocked out No. 20 seed and fellow American player Madison Keys, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. Keys, the runner-up at the 2017 U.S. Open and a semifinalist at the 2018 French Open, made 74 unforced errors, 51 more than Day.

Day is playing in a major tournament for the first time since 2017 after a litany of injuries; she listed a torn thigh muscle, a fractured foot, torn hip labrums and a bout with mononucleosis.

"Every time I tried coming back," Day said, "it just felt like something else would happen."

The exits by seeded women continued with Bernarda Pera defeating No. 22 Donna Vekic 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, although No. 1 Iga Swiatek, No. 4 Elena Rybakina and No. 7 Ons Jabeur all advanced in straight sets.