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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Zach Koons

Justin Bieber Inspires Coco Gauff to U.S. Open Comeback Victory

American tennis phenom Coco Gauff already has played in front of numerous high-profile spectators during the early stages of her career, including Barack and Michelle Obama, Jimmy Butler and Billie Jean King. 

But one celebrity in particular apparently had a rather profound effect on the 19-year-old during her third-round victory at the U.S. Open on Friday night: Justin Bieber.

Gauff, who advanced with a three-set win over Belgium’s Elise Mertens, credited her “Never Say Never” attitude to the pop icon, explaining that she caught a glimpse of him and wife Hailey Bieber in the stands during the match.

“I definitely saw who was there,” Gauff said on the ESPN broadcast after the match. “I thought, ‘I cannot lose in front of Justin Bieber.’ I didn’t lose a game after I saw that.”

Though initially starstruck, Gauff made a statement in the second half of the match. After dropping the first set 3–6, the tournament’s No. 6 seed rallied to win 6–3 in the second before dominating the third set, 6–0. 

“I got a little tight when I first saw him, then I remembered President Obama and Michelle Obama were at my first-round match,” Gauff admitted. “I was definitely star-struck with Justin. ‘Never Say Never’ was … one of my favorite songs when I was a kid. Then ‘Baby, Oh, Baby.’ I could go through all his songs. Then Hailey, too, coming. I guess it was a little date night for them, which was really cool.”

Gauff now will set her sights on the round of 16 on Sunday, when she’s slated to take on former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, who is playing in her first Grand Slam since coming out of retirement.

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