Comeback Coco: Gauff rallies to win U.S. Open debut

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NEW YORK — Comeback Coco is back. Coco Gauff, the 15-year-old who authored a magnetic run to the Wimbledon fourth round, rallied to win her first U.S. Open main draw match on Tuesday.

Gauff beat a fellow former junior No. 1, 18-year-old Russian Anastasia Potapova, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 to reach the second round of the season’s final Grand Slam. This one felt different than her Wimbledon debut win over Venus Williams, or any of the other three matches at the All England Club.

“At Wimbledon, my first match, I mean, people were still rooting for me, but obviously there was, like, a lot of people rooting for Venus, where this match it was entirely for me,” said Gauff, the youngest singles player to win a U.S. Open match since countrywoman CiCi Bellis in 2014. “This is my first match where people actually had a chant for me.”

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

Gauff next gets Hungarian qualifier Tímea Babos on Thursday (she had to be told that she gets a day off and doesn’t have to play Wednesday).

The women’s draw has seen few major upsets — 2017 U.S. Open champion and No. 11 seed Sloane Stephens was the highest-ranked first-round loser — while four men in the top 10 were upset Tuesday.

Gauff could play No. 1 Naomi Osaka in the third round Saturday. The two practiced together about two years ago, said Osaka, who advanced in three sets Tuesday to open her title defense.

“I have actually been trying to talk to her recently, because I feel she’s a little bit like me,” said the 21-year-old Osaka, who last year became the youngest U.S. Open champion since Maria Sharapova in 2006. “This is such a good experience for her. She obviously deserves to play here.”

Gauff looked lost in the first set Tuesday evening at Louis Armstrong Stadium, the second-biggest court on the grounds with a 14,000 capacity. She had three winners to 16 unforced errors, including four double faults.

“Obviously I was nervous going out on the court,” she said. “It’s such a big court. Then my home Slam, so I wanted to do well.”

But Gauff, who threw up her hands in the direction of her player box to urge them to support her, hit reset and came back as she did in the third round of Wimbledon last month. There, Gauff became the youngest woman to make a Grand Slam fourth round since Jennifer Capriati in 1991 and became a mainstream sensation.

“It’s mostly upside,” Gauff said of the fame. “The amount of people and kids especially that come up to me saying I inspire them is honestly, I guess, better than any match I could win, just to know that I inspire another kid maybe to pick up a racket or go through something they’re facing at school.”

In other action Tuesday, the likelihood that one of the men’s Big Three wins a 12th straight Grand Slam increased significantly despite none of them playing in the day session.

That’s because next-generation stars Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas each dropped four-set matches, bowing out in the first round of a second straight Slam.

Tsitsipas’ defeat was more memorable, for he ranted against chair umpire Damien Dumusois after being called for a coaching violation and being told to speed up during a clothing change. Andrey Rublev, the 43-ranked Russian, dumped the eighth-seeded Greek 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7), 7-5.

“For some reason, you have something against me … because you’re French, probably,” Tsitsipas, who beat Roger Federer at the Australian Open en route to the semifinals, told the umpire. “And you’re all weirdos.”

Thiem went out more quietly, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to 87th-ranked Italian Thomas Fabbiano. The Austrian had downplayed his readiness before the tournament due to a virus.

“I got very, very tired and exhausted after two sets,” he said. “I’m far away from 100 percent.”

In the spring, Thiem appeared the most likely man to break up the Federer-Novak DjokovicRafael Nadal triumvirate, winning Indian Wells (considered the fifth major) and reaching a second straight French Open final. He beat Federer, Djokovic and Nadal in the clay season.

Later Tuesday night, Nadal swept Australian John Millman 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. Only one other top-12 seed is left in Nadal’s half of the draw: No. 6 Alexander Zverev, who needed five sets to advance Tuesday.

Federer, Djokovic and the Williams sisters headline Wednesday’s second-round matches.

MORE: Serena Williams gives terse response when asked about 2018 chair umpire

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Germany denied gold-medal sweep of world luge championships races

Jonas Muller
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Austrian Jonas Müller denied Germany’s bid to sweep all nine races at the world luge championships.

Müller, a 25-year-old who was not on Austria’s Olympic team, won the men’s event by .104 of a second over German Max Langenhan at worlds in Oberhof, Germany, combining times from two runs. Another Austrian, 2018 Olympic champion David Gleirscher, earned bronze.

Three-time Olympian Tucker West was the top American in 13th. Chris Mazdzer, the 2018 Olympic silver medalist, skipped worlds as he raced a limited schedule this season.

Germany won the first seven of eight singles and doubles races on Friday and Saturday, including sprint events that aren’t on the Olympic program. After its defeat in the men’s event, it won the team relay to close the championships later Sunday with golds in eight of the nine events.

Its last gold-medal sweep at worlds was in 2013, when there were four events on the program. Germany also swept the Olympic golds in 2014 and 2022.

Müller, the 2020 World silver medalist who dropped out of Austria’s top three men last season, said his sled broke in a crash at a World Cup two weeks ago in Sigulda, Latvia.

“I flew home the next day and unpacked the old sled again,” he said, according to the International Luge Federation. “As you can see, the old sled doesn’t seem so bad.”

While Germany has dominated women’s and doubles events, this marked the third consecutive worlds with a non-German men’s winner, its longest drought since the mid-1990s.

Johannes Ludwig retired after winning last year’s Olympics. Felix Loch, a two-time Olympic champion and record six-time world champion, placed fourth on Sunday.

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Mikaela Shiffrin barely denied in first bid to tie Alpine skiing World Cup wins record

Mikaela Shiffrin
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Mikaela Shiffrin was denied in her first bid to tie the Alpine skiing World Cup wins record by six hundredths of a second.

Shiffrin, trying to tie Ingemar Stenmark‘s 86 World Cup victories, led by 67 hundredths over German Lena Duerr after the first of two slalom runs in Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic, on Sunday.

The last racer to go in the second run, Shiffrin’s lead over Duerr dwindled as she neared the finish line. It was down to 15 hundredths at the last intermediate split with 10 seconds left of the course.

Shiffrin crossed the finish line, saw that she ended up six hundredths behind, opened her mouth, rocked her head and put her hand to her helmet. It was the closest slalom defeat of her career, which has included a record 52 World Cup slalom victories.

“I felt like the first run I skied really well, and I actually skied quite well in the second as well,” Shiffrin told Austrian broadcaster ORF. “Six tenths is not actually so much time. … Lena has been strong all season, and she deserves to win.”

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Duerr, 31, earned her second World Cup win, 10 years to the day after her first. Shiffrin won 82 World Cup races in that span.

“It took me a while,” Duerr said. “Crazy that today’s the day.”

Shiffrin’s next bid to tie Stenmark, the Swedish legend of the 1970s and ’80s, won’t be until March.

Next up are the world championships in France, starting Feb. 6, which are separate from the World Cup.

Shiffrin’s next planned World Cup races are either speed races in Kvitfjell, Norway, the first weekend of March or a giant slalom and slalom in Stenmark’s home nation at Åre, Sweden, from March 10-11 ahead of her 28th birthday on March 13.

“I don’t have any expectations going into it,” said Shiffrin, whose first World Cup win came in Åre in 2012. “It’s just like every race of the season, just trying to take it all in and enjoy my skiing, enjoy when the other athletes are skiing better, too, because there’s always some to learn from that.”

Shiffrin began last week tied with Lindsey Vonn for second place on the career wins list at 82. She then rattled off victories on Wednesday and Thursday in giant slaloms in Kronplatz, Italy, and Saturday in the first slalom in Spindleruv Mlyn, site of her World Cup debut in 2011 at age 15.

She has 11 wins in 23 starts this season, her best campaign since her record 17-win 2018-19 season.

She did break one record on Sunday — clinching her seventh World Cup slalom season title with two races left in the discipline.

She broke her tie with Vreni Schneider, a Swiss star of the 1980s and ’90s, for most women’s World Cup slalom season titles. Stenmark won eight and is tied with Vonn (downhill) for the most season titles in any discipline.

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