When you’ve been on tour as long as Rafael Nadal, it’s fair to assume you’d know talent when you see it, and the 22-time Grand Slam champion sees plenty of potential in American teenager Coco Gauff.

“I like her the way that she talks to the crowd, to the press at the end of the matches,” he said after his four-set victory over Ricardas Berankis. “She's fresh. She's natural. Looks very mature in her thoughts.

“Yeah, I think she is a fighter. I like the way that she plays. She fights for every ball. Even sometimes when she's not playing that well, she keeps fighting till the end, running for every ball.”

Nadal and Gauff both made it to the very end of Roland Garros earlier this month, with Nadal extending his Open Era advantage over Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer while Gauff roared into her first major final. Though Gauff's run ended in defeat to world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, Nadal nonetheless predicts big things from the 18-year-old in the future.

“I think, yeah, if she's able just to improve a little bit with this physical performance that she has, probably we'll talk about the player that she will be: multi-Grand Slam winner.”


WATCH: Gauff spoke to the media after reaching the third round at Wimbledon.

Informed of Nadal’s full comments in her own press conference later on Thursday, the No. 11 seed was nearly rendered speechless.

“They told me the first part,” she explained after overcoming Mihaela Buzarnescu on Centre Court. “I didn't hear about the second part. But that's cool.

“It means a lot to me. I mean, Rafa's one of the greats, if not the greatest, of our sport right now.”

Though the two have quickly become colleagues at major tournaments, Gauff admits she still feels a great deal of distance between herself, a proverbial rising star, and Nadal, an entire planet.

“I always get intimidated by him just 'cause he's Rafa. I remember at French Open, he, like, patted me on the back and said, ‘Good job.’ I remember responding so late, he was already down the hallway, and I said, ‘Thank you,’ because I was so shocked he actually said that to me!

“He’s one of those players on tour that you get star-strucked every time. Same with Nole, Roger. Even Serena and Venus to this day, I still get starstruck.

“Hearing that from him is pretty cool and I hope I can live up to that.”

Gauff and Nadal will both aim to reach the second week of their respective draws on Saturday, Gauff against fellow American Amanda Anisimova, while Nadal is set to face Italian Lorenzo Sonego.