Coco Gauff was a high-profile casualty early on day one of the US Open, going down in three sets to Anastasija Sevastova.
The 16-year-old sensation, who announced herself with a stunning, giant-killing run at Wimbledon last year, dropped the first set before claiming the second to send the match to a decider.
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But Gauff’s forehand started to waiver as the match dragged on and No. 31 seed Sevastova took full advantage to secure a 6-3 5-7 6-4 win.
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Although ranked six places lower than Sevastova, Gauff will be disappointed to lose as her impressive run at grand slams came to an end. After beating the likes of Venus Williams and Polona Hercog to progress to the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2019, she excelled on the big stage, qualifying for the third round of last year’s US Open and the fourth round of this summer’s Australian Open.
That makes it the first time in her young career Gauff has lost in the first round of a major.
A crowd favourite in her home country in 2019, the American had to try and pump herself up in front of empty stands this time around but couldn’t maintain the rage for long enough.
“Even in the bubble, I love it here,” Sevastova said after the match.
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Gauff was bounced out in round one.Source:Getty Images
Meanwhile, top seed Karolina Pliskova shrugged off the eerily quiet atmosphere to reach the second round of the US Open.
World No. 3 Pliskova, elevated to top seed in the absence of world No. 1 Ash Barty and second-ranked Simona Halep, needed just over an hour to dispose of Ukraine’s Anghelina Kalinina.
The Czech ace overcame an early wobble, when Kalinina fought back from 1-4 down to level at 4-4 in the first set, to clinch a 6-4 6-0 victory in just over an hour.
The 28-year-old, a finalist at Flushing Meadows in 2016, will now face France’s Caroline Garcia in the second round.
Pliskova, who made a disappointing early exit at last week’s ATP/WTA Western & Southern Open tune-up event in New York, said she was adjusting to playing before empty stands at the Open, where spectators are barred because of COVID-19 protocols.
“I felt better than in my previous match, last week,” Pliskova said. “I think the centre court is better place to play no matter — I mean, it’s still without people, but I just felt somehow a little better.
“And I had a lot of practices on this court, so I felt just quite used to it.”
Pliskova’s sixth-seeded compatriot Petra Kvitova also advanced safely, downing Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu 6-3 6-2.
The 30-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, who has never gone beyond the quarter-finals in New York, said she was adjusting to the empty stands, as well as tournament regulations which prevent players from sightseeing in the city.
“It’s been different, for sure,” Kvitova said. “I’m glad that I had a couple of matches before to kind of get used to these new things.
“I really had to get used to being in the bubble. It’s something totally different, which I was normally doing — going out for a coffee, sitting in Central Park.
“Suddenly this is not the option.”
Petra Kvitova advanced safely.Source:Getty Images
Elsewhere today, Germany’s 17th seed Angelique Kerber, the 2016 US Open champion, booked her second-round berth with a 6-4 6-4 defeat of Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic.
The 32-year-old admitted the fan-free atmosphere had required a mental adjustment.
“It’s a little bit weird to play without fans and without the support and the atmosphere on the centre courts,” Kerber said.
“It’s a little bit like the feeling when you play practice matches against the players. But of course you know it’s like a serious game.
“It is more, for me today, it was more also mentally to prepare for the match that I know we play without fans and all the situation. It was not so easy at the beginning, but then, yeah, you get used to it a little bit.”
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