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Gauff charges through against Parks

  • Dan Imhoff

Coco Gauff is gathering steam at Melbourne Park, swiping aside compatriot and one-time childhood training partner Alycia Parks to reach the fourth round on Friday.

DRAW: Australian Open 2024 women’s singles 

Having survived an early scare to fend off another American, Caroline Dolehide, in the previous round, the fourth seed had no such difficulties against her Atlanta-born compatriot.

Ahead of the first-time encounter between the two, 82nd-ranked Parks boldly declared “I think this is the match that everyone’s been waiting for” after she defeated 32nd seed Leylah Fernandez.

While the match was not short on hype, friendship offered no favours as Gauff quickly put paid to any threat of a second boilover in as many days, following third seed Elena Rybakina’s overnight departure.

“I was really just trying to do what I do against everybody else: keep the ball deep, open up the court, try to move her as much as I could,” Gauff said following the 6-0 6-2 victory.

“I don't think she played her best tennis today. I know when she's at her best, she's a tough player to play.”

Both women had relocated to Delray Beach as children where Gauff said they practised with Parks’ sister Mikayla.

While three years Parks’ junior, Gauff tasted greater success at a young age, including her Grand Slam breakthrough at last year’s US Open.

For Parks, this was her first venture this far at a major, but Gauff dismissed the idea nerves from her opponent played to her advantage.

“Not really because I feel like Alycia, she has a lot of big goals for herself,” Gauff said. “I think she expects a lot from herself, just knowing her for a long time.

“I don't know if she was nervous or not today. I don't think she was. It was not something I was thinking about before the match.”

One fan in her sequined American flag jacket proudly divided her allegiance between both women, but in reality it was the 19-year-old who delivered greater cause for celebration.

Childhood friends: Coco Gauff and Alycia Parks

Parks took the court donning a gold necklace with a pendant bearing the words “winner”, but much to her chagrin she racked up a distinct lack of them – 11 in total to Gauff’s four – to offset an unforced error count of 34. Gauff committed just eight.

A kicking serve wide finally had Parks on the board in the opening game of the second set, but the 23-year-old was her own worst enemy as a seventh double fault surrendered the double break.

As the match ticked over an hour, victory was in the bag and Gauff was the first American to reach the Australian Open fourth round three times as a teenager, something not even her idol Serena Williams managed.

She will next take on Magdalena Frech, after the Pole’s three-set triumph over qualifier Anastasia Zakharova, for a place in the quarterfinals. 

Still four wins from the prize, the teenager now knows what it takes as she heads into the second week of a major.

“I think as you get later, the trophy obviously gets closer and closer,” she said. “You have to treat it that it's as far away as it is if you're in the first round. 

“That's [how] I approached that final. I didn't approach it as I just need to win two sets and I have it. I approached it as I need to win seven matches again and then I'll get it. It was actually something my brother told me, which is crazy.”