Coco Gauff

Coco Gauff upsets 9th seed to start French Open

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Coco Gauff notched yet another impressive Grand Slam match win, taking out ninth seed Jo Konta in her French Open main draw debut on Sunday.

Gauff, a 16-year-old American, upset the Brit Konta, a 2019 French Open semifinalist, 6-3, 6-3 on the first day of play at Roland Garros despite 12 double faults. Konta had 41 unforced errors to 22 winners.

“Every match is a great win,” said Gauff, the youngest player in either singles draw. “I don’t really take anything for granted because I’m just happy to be playing. I don’t think maybe winning Slams, matches at Slams is something I’m used to. Especially, this is my first main draw Roland Garros. When I’m on the court. I can act like I’m used to it. When I’m off the court, I’m just happy to be here.”

The clay-court Slam was postponed from May due to the coronavirus pandemic, is being held with damp temperatures in the 50s and has limited spectators to 1,000 per day.

“I’m pretty sure this is my first ever pro tournament, maybe even tournament in general, playing in weather like this,” said Gauff, noting she warmed up for 20 minutes before going on court so she could walk in with a sweat.

Gauff, the 2018 French Open junior champion, gets Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan in the second round after playing a match in leggings for the first time in about six years.

She’s coming off an impressive last year-plus, reaching the fourth round at the most recent Wimbledon and Australian Open. In between, she became the youngest WTA tournament champion since 2004. She recorded wins over Venus Williams and Naomi Osaka.

Gauff will bid over the next nine months to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team outright by being among the top four Americans in WTA rankings after the 2021 French Open. Therefore, her result at this French Open will not count toward Olympic qualifying.

She is currently ranked 51st overall and eighth among Americans.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Earlier Sunday, Williams finished her 2020 with a third first-round loss in as many Grand Slam tournaments — 6-4, 6-4 to Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

With the WTA’s autumn Asian swing canceled, Williams said she won’t play before next season starts in Australia.

Williams, 40 years old and ranked 76th, will need a scintillating start to 2021 to make the U.S. Olympic team in singles. She is currently the 14th-highest-ranked American. If she doesn’t make it in singles, Williams (or Gauff) could be chosen as a doubles-only player for the Tokyo Games.

Top seed Simona Halep took the last 10 games of her 6-4, 6-0 win over Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo. Halep, who is on a 15-match win streak dating to February, could play Gauff in the quarterfinals.

On the men’s side, Stan Wawrinka swept Andy Murray 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 in a battle of three-time major champions and a rematch of their life-changing 2017 semifinal in Paris.

“I need to have a long, hard think about it,” Murray said. “I don’t feel like the conditions are an excuse for it.”

It marked Murray’s first match on clay since that semi, won by Wawrinka in five sets. After that match three years ago, Wawrinka underwent two knee surgeries and Murray had two hip surgeries. Neither has made a Grand Slam semifinal since, and Murray nearly retired due to hip problems.

U.S. men went 3-0 on Sunday after winning one match total at the 2019 French Open.

The most notable victor: Sebastian Korda, the 20-year-old son of Czech 1998 Australian Open winner Petr Korda and brother of Nelly Korda, the world’s second-ranked female golfer.

Korda beat Italian veteran Andreas Seppi 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to become the youngest U.S. man to win a French Open main-draw match since 18-year-old Andy Roddick defeated Michael Chang in 2001.

Korda, after his first tour-level win, gets John Isner in the second round.

Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, each trying to tie Grand Slam singles titles records, play first-round matches on Monday.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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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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Coco Gauff delivers speech, demands change, promises to use platform

Coco Gauff
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Coco Gauff, the 16-year-old tennis star, delivered a speech at a peaceful protest in her hometown on Wednesday, demanding change and promising to use her platform to spread vital information.

“I’ve been spending all week having tough conversations, trying to educate my non-black friends on how they can help the movement,” Gauff told a crowd, holding an affixed microphone atop a lectern in front of Delray Beach City Hall in Florida, after her grandmother spoke. “You need to use your voice, no matter how big or small your platform is. You need to use your voice. I saw a Dr. [Martin Luther] King quote that said, ‘The silence of the good people is worse than the brutality of the bad people.'”

Earlier this week, Gauff posted links on her social media accounts — with more than 800,000 combined followers — to register to vote and a petition for justice for the death of George Floyd. On Wednesday, she shared video of her participating in a march, saying her hometown police chief was part of the group.

Click here for NBC News’ coverage of Floyd’s death and protests in Minneapolis and around the country.

Last summer, Gauff, then 15, became the youngest player to reach Wimbledon’s fourth round since Jennifer Capriati in 1991. She followed that with third- and fourth-round runs at the U.S. Open and the Australian Open, sandwiched between her first WTA Tour title.

The full text of the beginning of her speech, which she shared on social media:

“Hello everyone. My name is Coco, and who just spoke was my grandma. I think it’s sad that I’m here protesting the same thing that she did 50-plus years ago. So I’m here to tell you guys this: that we must, first, love each other no matter what. We must have the tough conversations with my friends. I’ve been spending all week having tough conversations, trying to educate my non-black friends on how they can help the movement. Second, we need to take action. Yes, we’re all out here protesting, and I’m not of age to vote, but it’s in your hands to vote for my future, for my brother’s future and for your future. So that’s one way to make change. Third, you need to use your voice, no matter how big or small your platform is. You need to use your voice. I saw a Dr. [Martin Luther] King quote that said, ‘The silence of the good people is worse than the brutality of the bad people.’ So, you need to not be silent, because if you are choosing silence, you’re choosing the side of the oppressor. So, I’ve heard many things this past week. One of the things I’ve heard is, well, it’s not my problem. This is why I have to tell you this. If you listen to black music. If you like black culture. If you have black friends. Then this is your fight, too. It’s not your job. It’s not your duty to open your mouth to say, ‘Lil Uzi Vert‘s my favorite artist, but I don’t care what happened to George Floyd.’ Now how does that make sense? So, I demand change now. It’s sad that it takes another black man’s life to be lost for all of this to happen, but we have to understand that this has been going on for years. This is not just about George Floyd. This is about Trayvon Martin. This is about Eric Garner. This is about Breonna Taylor. This is about stuff that’s been happening. I was 8 years old when Trayvon Martin was killed. So why am I here at 16 still demanding change? And it breaks my heart because I’m fighting for the future for my brothers. I’m fighting for the future for my future kids. I’m fighting for the future for my future grandchildren. So, we must change now, and I promise to always use my platform to spread vital information.”

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