Sloane Stephens crushes Coco Gauff’s US Open night

NEW YORK – Coco Gauff became the envy of all her friends when Sloane Stephens came for her 10th birthday at a water park. They couldn’t believe a professional tennis player was there with them.

At the time, Gauff was training with Stephens’ childhood trainer and the two had become friends. During the following years, they cross paths and see each other at parties and family reunions. Gauff admired Stephens, now 28, and Stephens followed Gauff’s rapid development.

Gauff watched in wonder as Stephens won the US Open title at Arthur Ashe Stadium in 2017, and Gauff made it to the tournament’s junior final the next day in hopes of doing the same.

On Wednesday, the two met for the first time in the second round of the tournament at Ashe in the prime-time featured slot.

Gauff, 17, called it a “full moment” before the match, and for tennis fans it was a fascinating clash between two women who both have, at different times, been seen as the great hope of the game. America to fill the gigantic shoes of Venus and Serena Williams. This is the first US Open in Gauff’s lifetime without any of the Williams sisters participating.

And in the high-profile generational battle, Stephens made it clear that the future will have to wait, a little longer, at least, as she outscored Gauff 6-4, 6-2 in just over an hour.

As the remnants of Hurricane Ida poured profusely and noisily onto the closed roof above, the match initially had the makings of an instant classic as they traded matches early and were tied at 4 in the first. set. But behind his blistering forehand and dominant first serve, Stephens’ experience prevailed. She won the next two games and Gauff never had much of a chance to get back into the game.

Stephens clinically won the last five games of the second set to clinch the victory.

Gauff was dejected as she made her way to the net, but Stephens quickly hugged her and told her she loved him.

“I’m really proud of the player she is, the girl she is and the woman she’s becoming,” Stephens told ESPN’s Pam Shriver on the pitch moments later. .

Gauff became a household name during her unexpected run to the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2019. She was a seemingly fearless 15-year-old qualifier who beat Venus Williams in the first round and returned after facing two match points in the second set. against Polona Hercog on center court in the third round.

Gauff has won fans the world over with his daring game and outgoing personality. It was immediately touted as the next big thing in sport.

Since then, she has quickly climbed the rankings and won two WTA singles and three doubles titles, and reached her first major quarter-finals at Roland Garros earlier this year. She is currently ranked No. 23, a career high. And a major title is often discussed as inevitable: not if, but when.

But that fate will have to wait until at least the 2022 season.

Stephens didn’t burst onto the scene like Gauff did, but she too was a talented teenager with high expectations. Stephens reached the US Open junior doubles title at age 14 and reached the semi-finals of the prodigious Orange Bowl that same year. It would take her a few more years to become a Gauff-level phenomenon, but Stephens finally did with a shocked victory heard around the world over Serena Williams in the 2013 Australian Open quarterfinal.

Stephens was 19 and suddenly was the rising star of the country. But while Gauff’s trajectory has been largely upward, Stephens is perhaps the best example that progress isn’t always a straight line. Her ranking had fallen to No.957 before her triumph at the US Open, as she was out for 11 months due to a stress fracture in her right foot. She followed her first Grand Slam title with a run to the final at Roland Garros the following season.

She hasn’t made it past the quarter-finals in a major tournament since, but with victories over Gauff and former US Open finalist Madison Keys at this tournament so far, she seems more than capable of making a another deep race.

“I’m really happy with both of these wins,” Stephens said after the game. “I played good tennis to get them. Yeah, I mean it’s only the third round of a Slam yet so I have to keep going. But it’s nice to know that I was able to get it. those two wins with all the pressure and the outside stuff happening.

Stephens will then face three-time major winner Angelique Kerber or Anhelina Kalinina on Friday, and a potential clash with defending champion Naomi Osaka looms in the round of 16. Stephens holds a 2-0 record over Osaka, but the two failed to make it. played since 2018.

For Gauff, Wednesday’s result was disappointing and marked an exit earlier than she had expected on her own.

“I feel like I’ve learned that I can go a long way in a Slam,” said Gauff. “I think if I tighten up some things I’m able to win one. The couple passed [of] Slams, I lost to players who went to quarterfinals or who won, in the end, so that shows that I’m here. “

Gauff will now turn to doubles with his longtime partner Caty McNally. The No. 11 seed will look to improve on their previous two major quarter-finals.

Gauff was understandably not happy with Wednesday’s outcome, but she certainly impressed the cool girl who came to her childhood birthday party.

“It’s really nice to see her game evolve and the things she does, like the way she’s able to turn so much defense into offense and do those moves,” Stephens said. “She’s excellent at net. She has a really good all-around game. It’s really nice to watch.

“She’s different from a lot of the rising players that we see now hitting really hard, not a lot of variety. She has a parcel variety. “


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