(August 28, 2023) FLUSHING, NY – No. 6 seed Coco Gauff needed three-sets and a lot of patience to beat veteran qualifier Laura Siegemund 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 on Monday night in Arthur Ashe Stadium in her first round match on Day one at the US Open.
The 19-year-old Floridian had a conversation with chair umpire Marijana Veljovic to complain that her opponent was committing time violations which included not being ready when Gauff was about to serve.
“First rounds are always tricky, especially she played through qualifying,” Gauff said. “She’s a tricky opponent in general. She does a lot of quirky stuff with the slices and coming to the net, all of that.
“I played her before in the past, obviously a long time ago. I think I lost. I’m just happy that I was able to overcome all that. Wasn’t playing my best tennis.
“I think most of the time, every Grand Slam you have one bad match. I’m glad I was able to get that out of the way in the first round.”
Like her new coach Brad Gilbert, she imitated his philosophy of “wining ugly.” “Yeah, I definitely won ugly tonight,” Gauff said to media. “It was a lot of weird points, with the slicing. Usually something that I usually do well against, opponents who slice. We were prepared for it. I think today was just execution.
“I just came from playing Muchova last week who has an amazing slice, but obviously she’s a more aggressive player than Laura. I think I was trying my best to just stay in the points, try to push her on defense. She was coming to the net a lot. I lost to her in doubles at Wimbledon, so I knew she had good hands. She proved that she did. I think she only missed two or three volleys.
“So, yeah, today was truly winning ugly.”
Gauff had a set of special guests watching her on Monday night – former President and the First Lady – Barack and Michelle Obama.
“I actually just met them right before I came in here,” Gauff said. “So my mood is a little bit nicer. Maybe I’m saying nicer things than I actually planned on (smiling). That lightened my mood. I literally texted, I was like, that’s brightened my mood so much.
“I wasn’t sure they were here or not. I saw the Secret Service. I didn’t know if it was Mr. Biden and Mrs. Biden. I knew it was somebody. Then I heard that maybe Mr. Clinton was coming. I didn’t know who exactly it was. So I didn’t know until after the match.
“I didn’t see them in the presidential box. I was obviously looking at that, but they weren’t I guess in my eyeline. But afterwards, yeah, they told me they wanted to say hi.
“I’ve met Mrs. Obama before. They told me it was just her initially. Then Mr. Obama was there in the room, too. I was like, Oh, my God. I haven’t soaked it in because I literally just walked in here. I think I’m going to never forget that moment for the rest of my life. Yeah, I went from being really upset after a win to, like, being really happy. So I’m glad I got to meet them. They gave me some good advice, too.”
Gauff will play a 16-year-old for a place in the third round – Mirra Andreeva.
The second match of the night session in Arthur Ashe Stadium featured No. 2 Novak Djokovic who breezed past his opponentAlexandre Muller 6-0, 6-2, 6-3. He hit 32 winners and broke his opponent’s serve 8 times. The victory moves the Serb back to the top ranking when the US Open ends.
“I think the first set I started tremendously well off the blocks,” said the 23-time major winner.
“Well, I knew it was going to be a late night for me, late start of the match,” Djokovic said in his media conference. “Nevertheless, I mean, I was excited to go out on the court. I didn’t care if I started after midnight because I was looking forward to this moment for few years, to be out on the biggest stadium in our sport, the loudest stadium in our sport, playing night session.
“Tonight was a special night, they had a ceremony. It took longer than I would probably have wanted. As I said, it was a great joy to be stepping out on the court. I think the performance explains how I felt tonight, particularly in the first two sets. It was kind of lights-out tennis really, almost flawless, perfect first set.
“I’ve probably had the answer for every shot he had in his book. Overall I’m very, very pleased with the way I feel, with the way I’m playing. Hopefully I can maintain that level. It’s just the beginning of the tournament, but I already like the level of tennis.”
No. 1 American Taylor Fritz had few problems against countryman Steve Johnson, winning 6-2, 6-1, 6-2.
“Super happy to come out today and play confident, play well, and, you know, get through it pretty easily,” said Fritz to media.
Asked about the pressure of being the top US male player, he said:
“Yeah, there is always going to be a lot of pressure, just as an American playing the US Open. There is no other way to put it. Like obviously all the Grand Slams are equal in points, but for an American, the US Open is always going to be the most important one.
“There is definitely a lot of pressure. I don’t think there is any more pressure on me than there is on, let’s say, Frances. I don’t think it’s just me being the No. 1 American. I think just being top Americans and having high expectations for this week is something that we just have to kind of live with and deal with.”
Another American No. 28 Christopher Eubanks made it into the second round in Flushing with a four-set win over SoonWoo Kwon on The Grandstand.
“I thought I played relatively well. I felt like I played well in spots, the spots that I needed to play well. Obviously I think Soonwoo is one of the best ball strikers on tour. When he gets in the mode he was in in the third set, it’s tough for everybody.
“Kind of able to keep my composure, reset myself a little bit, be able to, like I said, hold serve, allowed that to kind of be a catalyst for me getting some momentum in the fourth. Not very often I get broken three times in one set. When that happened, All right, let’s throw that one out the window, start fresh in the fourth.
“Everything else kind of took care of itself.”
An NJTL Group from Atlanta, Georgia, from where Eubanks hails from has been cheering him on since 2019. Asked about his experience with “Coach Wink’s group he said:
“That group has been coming up and supporting me for years, dating all the way back to I believe — I mean, the time that I can clearly remember was 2019. I got a wild card here, I played Cristian Garin first round. They came out and brought some energy, came out in full force. Unfortunately I lost in five sets there.
“But since then, they’ve always kind of tried to come out throughout the Open and give their support, give their energy and voice, which I think is really, really cool. Many of those kids come from similar backgrounds, similar areas of Atlanta that I do.
“To be able to kind of be I guess someone they can kind of look to, maybe see a little bit of themselves in I think is truly an honor. It’s really, really special to be able to kind of serve as that kind of – I hate to use the term ‘role model’ – but serve as that guiding light towards them in their tennis journey, whatever that is, whether that’s college, professional, high school tennis. Wherever it is, if it can help them find a love for the sport, then I think it’s great.”
More to follow…