(Reuters) - American teenager Coco Gauff overcame a bout of nerves which came with playing on Centre Court at Wimbledon before settling into her groove to beat Russian Elena Vesnina 6-4 6-3 in the second round on Thursday.
Gauff is no stranger to the spotlight at the All England Club, having stormed into the fourth round in 2019 on her main draw debut as a 15-year-old to fuel 'Coco-mania' but she admitted she was nervous on her return.
"It means a lot to be back here on Centre Court. Honestly, this court makes me the most nervous of any court in the world but after I win the match it's one of the best feelings," she said in her post-match interview.
"Today I was super nervous coming in. There's no other court like Centre Court at Wimbledon."
The 34-year-old Vesnina, a former doubles number one, is twice Gauff's age and one of many mothers at Wimbledon. She returned to the Tour from maternity leave after nearly three years in April with a protected ranking.
Gauff had an early scare when she took a tumble at 2-2 in the opening set but immediately got back to her feet, giving the chair umpire a thumbs-up to indicate she was fine to continue.
The turning point in the opener came at 3-3 when the American broke Vesnina, who made two backhand errors and served a double fault to give Gauff the lead. The 20th seed then served out the set, sealing it when Vesnina found the net.
Gauff carried that momentum into the second set with a double break to take a 3-0 lead, continuing to target Vesnina's backhand as the Russian made a slew of errors.
Vesnina then called for a medical timeout to get treatment on her back and returned re-energised as she broke Gauff for the first time in the match and rallied to make it 3-2.
A stroke of luck at 4-3 allowed Gauff to take the lead when a lob fell onto the net tape and dribbled over, much to Vesnina's frustration.
The American then broke again when her opponent served her fourth double fault on match point.
"I feel like I've changed and grown a lot, the last time I was on this court I don't think too many people knew my name," Gauff added.
"I feel a little bit at home now. Back in 2019 I was enjoying the experience and now I'm learning but coming into these matches believing I can win."
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)