Coco Gauff won a match on the hardcourt a few hours before Serena Williams was scheduled to play the second-round match at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday night. This match was the one that everyone was anticipating the most.
Gauff, who is just 18 years old, did not take the opportunity for granted. She has given Williams credit for demonstrating her that it is possible for a Black woman to be a star in professional tennis. She referred to it as “an honour” to serve as the opener for her.
The victory wasn’t too shabby either.
Gauff swiftly asserted her dominance over the situation after she and Elena-Gabriela Ruse of Romania shared the opening two games of the first set during Wednesday’s second-round encounter.
After losing their first game, Gauff went on to win their next two. The New York audience that was cheering for Gauff gave out a sigh of sadness, and Gauff murmured softly to herself in disgust when she double-faulted when she was one point away from winning a third consecutive game. Ruse was left speechless and leaning awkwardly as the ball sped past her, much like a hitter who is taken off guard by a fastball. Gauff answered with back-to-back tremendous aces, which left Ruse speechless.
In that moment, Gauff displayed one of her shortcomings, but she also showed a peek of the skill that has many people hailing her as the future of American tennis. The final score of the set and the match was 6-2 and 7-6 in favour of Gauff against Ruse (4). In the third round, Gauff will compete against Madison Keys, who is also from the United States. Gauff was beaten by Keys, who is now ranked 20th in women’s singles, during the month of January at the Adelaide International 2 event. Keys went on to win the competition.
Gauff and Ruse faced one other for the second time in their careers on Wednesday. They had competed against one another in June at Wimbledon, when Gauff emerged victorious in a three-set match against Ruse.
There were moments throughout the match on Wednesday when it seemed as if there may be a need for a third set. At the beginning of the second set, both players were performing at a similar level. The winning shot for the third game was made by Gauff while she was following a ball along the baseline with her braids flowing behind her. She struck the ball to the other side of the court, which caused the audience to erupt in cheers. Gauff’s shot won the game. Ruse reacted by winning three games to gain a lead of 5-3 and calm the audience as it seemed that momentum was shifting in her favour.
Gauff fought back and won three consecutive games to put herself in the driver’s seat with a 6-5 advantage. Gauff double-faulted when she was just one point away from winning the match and had the fans on her side, forcing the match into a tiebreaker. Gauff went on to win the match by taking five of the following seven points after splitting the opening four points of play. Ruse was unable to return a particularly strong backhand, which resulted in the point being awarded to the opponent. Gauff exclaimed, flung her fist in the air in exuberance and relief, and raised her arms high, which sparked the interest of the spectators.
Gauff has never been farther than the third round of the U.S. Open in any of his previous appearances. She was eliminated in the second round the year before, and in the first round the year after that. When Gauff was only 15 years old the previous time she reached it this far in the tournament, she faced Naomi Osaka, who was the defending champion and had the world No. 1 ranking at the time. Gauff came back to her bench in tears after being soundly thrashed by Osaka in that match, which Osaka won easily by a score of 6-3 and 6-0. Osaka then asked Gauff to conduct the post-match interview alongside her.
After beating Venus Williams at Wimbledon when she was only 15 years old and making history as the youngest player to ever compete in the women’s main draw, Gauff became a household figure in the sport of tennis. She now has a partnership with the Italian food company Barilla as well as a trademark shoe with New Balance (she wore a dazzling pink and green version of the shoe on Wednesday), but she has not yet won a big championship.
Gauff stated that she would not be in attendance for Serena Williams’ second-round match on Wednesday due to the fact that she would be receiving her post-match medical treatment and had a doubles match scheduled for Thursday morning, but that she would be watching the match on television within the venue. Serena Williams played her first-round match on Monday.