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Vandeweghe overcomes nerves and Muguruza to meet Venus

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 24/1/17 Coco Vandeweghe of the U.S. reacts during her Women's singles quarter-final match against Spain's Garbine Muguruza. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 24/1/17 Coco Vandeweghe of the U.S. reacts during her Women's singles quarter-final match against Spain's Garbine Muguruza. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

By Nick Mulvenney

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - "Fake it 'til you make it," Coco Vandeweghe said after her fourth round upset of world number one Angelique Kerber this week and if the American is indeed hiding her nerves under a patina of confidence, she's doing a great job of it.

The big-hitting 25-year-old world number 35 blasted her way past seventh seed Garbine Muguruza 6-4 6-0 at the Australian Open on Tuesday to reach the semi-finals of a grand slam for the first time.

French Open champion Muguruza was left simply stunned.

"I think she played unbelievable. Three times we played in the past, she didn't show this level," the Spaniard said.

"I have zero regrets about my performance. I think when you play with someone that has the power to disturb like this, to hit these kind of shots, and has a good day, I mean, it's difficult honestly."

Vandeweghe said the "calming voice" of her experienced coach Craig Kardon had helped ease her nerves before the contest but also posited that perhaps the butterflies in her stomach were necessary.

"Maybe I play better nervous and scared," she said. "I don't know. I think I don't shy away from a challenge necessarily. I never have. Growing up, I've always just been wanting to prove people wrong in a lot of different regards.

"I think it's more I take it as a challenge. I take it as an enjoyable challenge. It's what I want to do. It's where I want to be.

"To face the best players is definitely an accomplishment, to say for myself that I've gotten to the point that I've beat and face these top players."

That competitive edge may have derived from growing up in a family where sporting excellence was the norm.

Her grandfather was former New York Knicks basketball player Ernie Vandeweghe, she is the niece of former NBA player Kiki Vandeweghe and her mother Tauna was a swimmer who represented the United States at the 1976 Olympics.

"In my family, if you think you're too high, you'll get put down really fast. They're good about that," she said.

"It's a very competitive family, whether it's just playing cards around the table, or if it does end up coming to sports. But, you know, I like to think I'm smart enough not to mess with anyone in their said sport that they like to play.

"They're quick to bring me back down off my pedestal if I get too high."

Next up for Vandeweghe in the semi-finals is fellow American Venus Williams, 11 years her senior and seven-times a grand slam champion.

"It's a dream to play someone you grew up watching," she said.

"But to do it at this stage of a grand slam is kind of crazy. I mean, I can't really put it into words."

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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