NEW YORK (AP) — Three years in the past, a reporter requested Sloane Stephens to level out a youthful tennis participant most followers may not have heard of but, somebody she thought may develop into a family title some day. Stephens paused to ponder, however not for lengthy, earlier than responding: Coco Gauff, then 14.
Stephens had first met Gauff a number of years earlier — they final hit collectively on a courtroom in Florida when Gauff was 12 — and clearly knew what she was speaking about. The world would shortly uncover Gauff, too. The pair of pals met in an official match for the primary time Wednesday evening on the U.S. Open, and it was Stephens, the 2017 champion now ranked 66th, who pulled away for a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Gauff, now 17 and seeded twenty first.
Afterward, the pair met on the internet for a heat hug, earlier than Stephens praised the participant — and particular person — Gauff has develop into.
“I love Coco. I think everyone knows I love Coco. At the end of the match, I said, ‘I love you.’ She’s such a great player and I feel so lucky to have seen her grow up and play since she was 8,” Stephens advised the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd.
“I know,” Stephens added, “there’s going to be great things ahead for her.”
With the Ashe roof shut throughout a heavy downpour introduced by remnants of Hurrican Ida — a twister warning was in impact within the area and there was flooding across the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center — the thump-thump-thump of the rain created a bass beat that drowned out the standard sounds of a tennis match. It was so loud Stephens may barely hear the questions throughout her on-court interview.
Only one different courtroom at Flushing Meadows will be coated throughout unhealthy climate, however even that was a difficulty Wednesday night, as a result of wind helped push rain by the area between the concourse and the retractable cowl at Louis Armstrong Stadium — a spot there on function to supply pure air flow.
So the match between two-time main finalist Kevin Anderson and Diego Schwartzman was delayed for almost a half-hour at 5-all within the first set whereas staff used air blowers to dry the enjoying floor, then stopped once more early within the second set when the courtroom obtained so moist that efforts to clear the puddles have been deserted.
Eventually, the event gave up on getting that match achieved in Armstrong and determined to maneuver it to Ashe, the place Schwartzman wrapped up a 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4 win simply previous 1 a.m., following the conclusion of French Open runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas’ 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-0 victory over Adrian Mannarino. Those shifting on within the males’s draw within the afternoon included No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, No. 5 Andrey Rublev and 18-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who takes on Tsitsipas subsequent.
The match to find out the subsequent foe for Stephens — three-time Slam champ Angelique Kerber vs. Anhelina Kalinina — was alleged to be performed in Armstrong following Anderson-Schwartzman however was postponed till Thursday.
The situations didn’t matter in any respect to defending champion Naomi Osaka, who superior within the morning when her second-round opponent, Olga Danilovic, pulled out of the event due to what she stated was a viral illness — but not COVID-19.
Other previous main title winners Simona Halep, Garbiñe Muguruza and Victoria Azarenka moved on extra conventionally with straight-set wins. Muguruza subsequent faces Azarenka, who along with a pair of Australian Open trophies is a three-time runner-up on the U.S. Open, together with when she misplaced to Osaka within the ultimate a yr in the past.
Osaka hasn’t been crushed in a Grand Slam match since dropping to Gauff on the 2020 Australian Open.
And towards Stephens, Gauff did briefly show the various expertise that helped her to that win and others on huge phases, together with twice towards Venus Williams, and a run to the Roland Garros quarterfinals in June.
But Stephens, fairly merely, was higher. From 4-all on the outset, she claimed eight of the remaining 10 video games, with a efficiency largely constructed with terrific placement of her serves and stinging forehands. Gauff’s lone break likelihood got here when she was up 2-1 within the second set, however Stephens held there, then broke at love and was on her means, by no means ceding one other recreation.
“The forehand,” Stephens stated, “was key today.”
Gauff had seen that forehand up shut 5 years in the past throughout a pleasant observe however, as she famous: “I definitely don’t remember how her ball felt when I was 12. She definitely was probably taking some pace off then. I don’t really count that.”
Stephens, who was two factors from dropping to good good friend Madison Keys on Monday in a rematch of their 2017 ultimate in New York, gained 39 of 49 factors she served, an 80% charge. She additionally put 84% of her first serves in play.
“I love that,” Stephens stated when a reporter advised her about that quantity.
More than a decade Gauff’s senior at age 28, Stephens additionally dealt with her opponent’s quicker serves adroitly, breaking 3 times.
Both walloped the ball throughout big-strike exchanges from the baseline, with enviable and unrelenting energy. The official stats confirmed they mixed for twenty-four winners and 44 unforced errors, however that latter designation appeared unfair to assign, given how a lot every was pressured to attempt to deal with from the opposite facet of the online.
“Obviously, I have a lot of respect for Sloane. Looked up to her for a while. Known her since I was little,” Gauff stated. “But I don’t think our relationship affected the match.”
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