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Inspired by Wozniacki, Danish teen Tauson plots own path to top

Danish teen Clara Tauson won the Australian Open junior title last year
Danish teen Clara Tauson won the Australian Open junior title last year Anne-Christine POUJOULAT AFP
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Paris (AFP)

Clara Tauson played down the inevitable comparisons to Caroline Wozniacki, her country's only Grand Slam champion, after becoming just the second Danish woman to reach round two at a major since 1989 on Tuesday.

The 17-year-old Tauson knocked out US Open semi-finalist Jennifer Brady in a nail-biting three-set clash on her Grand Slam main draw debut, having come through qualifying in Paris.

The former Australian Open junior champion saved two match points before clinching a 6-4, 3-6, 9-7 victory to set up a tie with Danielle Collins for a spot in the last 32.

"It's an insane feeling. I didn't expect it going into the match. Jen, she was in the semi-finals at the US Open so I was just grateful to be there and play," said Tauson.

"It's a dream come true," she added. "Winning the match...I don't have any words yet.

"I've never really experienced a match like that because we played long. She had match points, I had match points...I'm really happy."

Since the retirement of Wozniacki after last year's Australian Open -- a tournament she won in 2018 -- Denmark has been left searching for its next tennis champion.

"Of course there's been a lot of attention on me but I try to focus on myself. I'm just happy tennis is going OK in Denmark," said Tauson.

"We get compared a lot but I'm my own person and she (Wozniacki) is her own person."

"Caroline was my biggest role model for me growing up," she added.

"Denmark is a very small tennis country and she made it out. That made me think I could make it out growing up as well."

Tauson arrived in Paris ranked 188 and is appearing in only her second main draw at tour level, but said her display against Brady filled her with great confidence.

"I feel like I have game to be there," she said. "It was probably the highest quality tennis I've played in my life. It was a good place to do that!

"I adjusted and think I'm ready to be at this level. I still have to break into the top 100 and there's still a long way to that."

The Copenhagen native is based in Belgium at the Justine Henin Academy -- founded by the four-time French Open winner and former world number one.

"She was there for some of my match today and is watching my practice," Tauson said of Henin. "She's a great inspiration and I'm just trying to do the same."

Next up for Tauson is another American in Collins, who reached the 2019 Australian Open semi-finals.

"She's a very good player. I'm just looking forward to the match and hoping I can play just as well as today."

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