Coco Gauff eliminated in U.S. Open first round

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Coco Gauff dismissed that it made any difference. But as she rallied from a one-set hole in the U.S. Open first round for a second straight year, this much was noticeable: silence.

Gauff, the 16-year-old U.S. tennis sensation, was eliminated on the opening day of a fan-less major by No. 31 seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.

It was no upset. Sevastova is ranked six spots higher than No. 51 Gauff.

But it took the 30-year-old Latvian four match points to finish Gauff, who had already rebounded from a 2-4 hole in the second set. As a grinding third set wore on, it conjured memories of Gauff’s trio of three-setters from 2019 at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, all of which she won.

But this one was different. The atmosphere — the screeching of train cars in Queens replaced the raucous Louis Armstrong Stadium crowds pulling for Gauff a year ago. And the result — Gauff’s first defeat in the first round of a Grand Slam in her fourth main-draw appearance.

“I compete just as hard with fans or not,” said Gauff, who had 13 double faults and 40 unforced errors. “I could have played better today.”

US OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

The environment was a new experience for everybody. No ticketed spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic, and few people at all watching in person.

Gauff could have been reminded of her not-too-distant junior days before she burst onto the scene last summer, becoming the youngest woman to reach Wimbledon’s fourth round since Jennifer Capriati and the youngest to reach the U.S. Open third round since Anna Kournikova.

“I just got on tour a little over a year ago, so I still have a lot to learn and a long ways to go,” she said. “I’m playing against people older than me who have been in more situations, difficult situations, than I have. I think the biggest thing is I just need experience.”

She will get that. Gauff, who is also entered in doubles, will after the U.S. Open head to Europe for her first French Open main-draw appearance. She won her one and only junior Grand Slam title at Roland Garros.

She showed precociousness off the court on June 3, delivering a speech off the cuff at a peaceful protest in her Florida hometown, demanding change and promising to use her platform to spread vital information.

“This summer I learned a lot about myself,” Gauff said Monday. “I learned that I can overcome a lot of things on and off the court. I still hope I can be that way and use my platform in that way.”

Sevastova moved to 2-8 for 2020, the wins over Gauff and Serena Williams. The Latvian marveled at Gauff’s movement, awareness and backhand.

“It’s uncomfortable to play her,” said Sevastova, a 2018 U.S. Open semifinalist. “I wish I would play like this when I was 16 years old.”

Williams begins another quest for a 24th Grand Slam singles title on Tuesday. She will hope to have better luck than the group of U.S. women who have gone 1-8 so far. A total of 31 Americans are in the 128-player draw, the most since 1993.

MORE: Seven U.S. Open players put in ‘bubble in the bubble’

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Mark McMorris breaks Winter X Games medals record with slopestyle gold

Mark McMorris
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Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris broke his tie with American Jamie Anderson for the most Winter X Games medals across all sites, earning his 22nd medal, a slopestyle gold, in Aspen, Colorado.

On the final run of Sunday’s contest, McMorris overtook Norway’s Marcus Kleveland with back-to-back 1620s on the last two jumps. McMorris’ last three Aspen slopestyle titles were all won on his final run (2019, 2022).

“It’s something I never thought would ever come to me as a kid from Saskatchewan,” McMorris, 29, said on the broadcast. “Everything’s just been a bonus since I became a pro snowboarder.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression of their best run over the course of a jam session rather than scoring individual runs.

McMorris won his record-extending seventh X Games Aspen men’s slopestyle title, one day after finishing fourth in big air.

“It just keeps getting crazier because I keep getting older,” he said. “People just keep pushing the limits, pushing the limits. Last night was such a downer, almost bums me out, like, dude, do I still have it? … To have one of those miracle wins where you do it on the last run and someone makes you push yourself, those are the best feelings.”

McMorris won slopestyle bronze medals at each of the last three Olympics and reportedly said last February that he was planning to compete through the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games.

Canadian Max Parrot, the 2022 Olympic slopestyle champion, is taking this season off from competition.

Anderson, a two-time Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, is expecting her first child.

Later Sunday, U.S. Olympian Mac Forehand won men’s ski big air with a 2160 on his last run, according to commentators. It scored a perfect 50. Olympic gold medalist Birk Ruud of Norway followed with a triple cork 2160 of his own, according to commentators, and finished third.

Canadian skier Megan Oldham added slopestyle gold to her big air title from Friday, relegating Olympic champion Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland to silver.

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Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“I think I was just not ready to deliver at that day,” Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen, said on NBC. “I was really so confident, I think I sort of overthought everything and tried to get ahead of myself. But I think it’s all right.”

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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