Sloane Stephens crashes Coco Gauff's US Open party

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ESPN 01 September, 2021 - 11:34pm 7 views

Are the Williams sisters playing in the US Open?

Serena and Venus Williams aren't at US Open, but their presence is seen and felt everywhere. NEW YORK — Coco Gauff sat in an interview room in Flushing Meadows on Monday night, fresh after defeating her opponent, Magda Linette, in three sets. usatoday.comSerena and Venus Williams aren't at US Open, but their presence is seen and felt everywhere

Sloane Stephens easily beats No. 21 seed Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-2, in just 66 minutes. Gauff's inexperience in Grand Slam matches was exposed.

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NEW YORK — When Coco Gauff was 10, she invited one of her idols — a then 21-year-old tennis player named Sloane Stephens — to her birthday party. It seemed like a long shot, but Stephens showed up. Gauff still remembers how surreal that felt — having a professional tennis player at her party.

Seven years later, Gauff found herself in another surreal situation: facing Stephens for the first time in their careers, in the second round of the U.S. Open. This memory will undoubtedly be less pleasant for Gauff. Stephens delivered a dominant performance, defeating No. 21 seed Gauff in just two sets: 6-4, 6-2. It took Stephens only 66 minutes to move on to the third round.

Stephens said early in the tournament that her goal is to return to her former dominance. She won the U.S. Open in 2017 — the same year that a 13-year-old Gauff was competing in the junior U.S. Open finals — but fell out of the top 20 in 2019, and then out of the top 60 in 2020. She’s currently ranked No. 66, but Wednesday night's win could be seen as an inflection point of sorts for the 28-year-old. She broke Gauff three times and held all of her serves. Her forehand power and placement were strong, which made her match against Gauff all the more swift.

“I will say she probably hit her forehand the best that I've seen in a long time,” Gauff said after the match. “Also that could be just different because this is my first time facing her. I never practiced with her, so... That could just be my own thing because this is my first time feeling her ball.

“But she definitely played well tonight. She definitely was the better player tonight.”

Unlike Stephens — who has played in 112 Grand Slam matches — Gauff is still very early in her career. That isn’t to say she hasn’t accomplished a lot: in her debut at the U.S. Open in 2019, she made it to the third round as a wild card — the youngest player to reach that stage of the Open since Anna Kournikova in 1996 — but only to say that there is more room to grow.

“I think that I feel like I've learned that I'm capable of making it far in slams,” Gauff said. “I think if I tighten up a few things, that I'm capable of winning one. The past couple slams I've lost to players that have gone to the quarters or won eventually, so it shows that I'm there.

“I feel like there's just an experience lacking that I have. I definitely think it shows. I think that I just need to play more matches, so I feel more comfortable on the pressure moments.”

When the match ended, Stephens greeted her friend at the net, telling her “I love you” before they parted ways.

“I think everyone knows I love Coco,” Stephens said in an on-court interview. “She’s such a great player, and I feel so lucky to have seen her grow up and see her play from when she was like 8 years old. I have seen her game really transition and change. I’m really proud of the player she is and the girl she is and the woman she is becoming.”

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Sloane Stephens defeats Coco Gauff in 66-minute rout at US Open

ESPN 02 September, 2021 - 11:10am

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NEW YORK -- Three years ago, a reporter asked Sloane Stephens to point out a younger tennis player most fans might not have heard of yet, someone she thought could become a household name some day. Stephens paused to ponder, but not for long, before responding: Coco Gauff, then 14.

Stephens had first met Gauff several years earlier and clearly knew what she was talking about. The world would quickly discover Gauff, too. The pair of friends met in an official match for the first time Wednesday night at the US Open, and it was Stephens, the 2017 champion now ranked 66th, who pulled away for a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Gauff, now 17 and seeded 21st.

Afterward, the pair met at the net for a warm hug, before Stephens praised the player -- and person -- Gauff has become.

"I love Coco. I think everyone knows I love Coco. At the end of the match, I said, 'I love you.' She's such a great player and I feel so lucky to have seen her grow up and play since she was 8," Stephens told the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd.

Stephens added, "I know there's going to be great things ahead for her."

With the Ashe roof shut during a heavy downpour -- a tornado warning was in effect in the region -- the thump-thump-thump of the rain created a bass beat that drowned out the usual sounds of a tennis match. It was so loud Stephens could barely hear the questions during her on-court interview.

Only one other court at Flushing Meadows can be covered during bad weather, but even that was an issue Wednesday evening, because wind helped push rain through the space between the concourse and the retractable cover at Louis Armstrong Stadium, causing a delay in the match between two-time major finalist Kevin Anderson and Diego Schwartzman. Their match was suspended with Schwartzman having won the first set 7-6 (4). It resumed inside Ashe following the conclusion of the Stefanos Tsitsipas-Adrian Mannarino match.

A matchup between three-time Slam champ Angelique Kerber against Anhelina Kalinina, originally scheduled to follow Anderson and Schwartzman on Louis Armstrong, was postponed until Thursday. The winner takes on Stephens.

Against Stephens, Gauff briefly displayed the varied skills that helped her to that win and others on big stages, including twice against Venus Williams, and a run to the Roland Garros quarterfinals in June.

But Stephens, quite simply, was better. From 4-all at the outset, she claimed eight of the remaining 10 games, with a performance largely built with terrific placement of her serves and stinging forehands.

"The forehand," she said, "was key today."

Stephens, who was two points from losing to good friend Madison Keys on Monday in a rematch of their 2017 final in New York, won 39 of 49 points she served -- an 80% rate -- and saved the lone break point she faced.

More than a decade Gauff's senior at age 28, Stephens also handled her opponent's faster serves adroitly, breaking three times.

Both walloped the ball during big-strike exchanges from the baseline, with enviable and unrelenting power. The official stats showed they combined for 24 winners and 44 unforced errors, but that latter designation seemed unfair to assign, given how much each was forced to try to handle from the other side of the net.

"Obviously, I have a lot of respect for Sloane. Looked up to her for a while. Known her since I was little,'' Gauff said. "But I don't think our relationship affected the match.''

US Open 2021: Stefanos Tsitsipas prevails after another mid-match break, Sloane Stephens ousts Coco Gauff

Yahoo Sports 02 September, 2021 - 11:10am

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One player we didn't see on Wednesday was Naomi Osaka. She was set to face Olga Danilovic in one of the day's first matches, but won in a walkover after Danilovic withdrew due to illness. So Osaka has automatically advanced to Round 3, but the downside is that we don't get to see her play tennis again until at least Friday. 

Stefanos Tsitsipas is an incredibly talented 23-year-old with a legitimate shot at winning the US Open as the No. 3 seed, and the dominant narrative through his first two matches will be bathroom breaks.

Two days after earning the ire of Andy Murray by taking a lengthy bathroom break between sets, Tsitsipas again took a between-sets break on his way to a win. The Greek player defeated Adrian Mannorino 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (7-4), 6-0 to advance to the third round.

Tsitsipas credited the seven-minute break he took between the third and fourth sets after the match, though it doesn't sound like this one was for the toilet.

“My break after the third set," Tsitsipas said when asked about what caused his 6-0 win in the fourth. "I was completely wet so the break helped me a lot.”

A career-high 27 aces also helped Tsitsipas defeat Mannorino. Even losing the third set via tiebreak, it was still a strong showing for Tsitsipas, who won 85 percent of his first serves, 63 percent of his seconds and 5-of-7 break points.

Stefanos Tsitsipas is firing on all cylinders, up a set and a break.@steftsitsipas | #USOpen pic.twitter.com/LPSnxau5Ib

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 2, 2021

Waiting for Tsitsipas will now be 18-year-old Carlos Alcarez of Spain, who has opened his US Open career with wins over No. 26 seed Cameron Norrie and Arthur Rinderknech.

A tennis match getting suspended for rain isn't too unusual, but it is noteworthy when that match's stadium has a roof.

A match between No. 11 seed Diego Schwartzman and South African Kevin Anderson was suspended when the torrential rain hitting New York City found its way into Louis Armstrong Stadium:

Sideways rain roaring into Louis Armstrong Stadium. pic.twitter.com/X08DjmRUSM

— Darren Cahill (@darren_cahill) September 2, 2021

The match will be resumed on Thursday with Schwartzman leading 7-6 (7-4), 1-0. The next scheduled match, Angelique Kerber vs. Anhelina Kalinina, will also be held Thursday.

As remnants of Hurricane Ida pelted the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center with high winds and heavy rain, Stephens defeated Gauff under the Arthur Ashe Stadium roof in straight sets to advance to the third round.

Stephens broke Gauff three times while holding every one of her serves to secure the 6-4, 6-2 victory that qualified as an upset of the No. 21-seeded Gauff. It was Stephens' second straight victory over a fellow American after defeating close friend Madison Keys in Monday's opening round. The 28-year-old is seeking her second US Open title after winning in 2017.

Both players were evenly matched early with each struggling to do much with her opponent's serve. But 17-year-old Gauff cracked late in the opening set, and Stephens took advantage. With the set tied at 4-4, Gauff double-faulted on game point for the first break of the match. The break allowed Stephens to serve for the set leading, 5-4. She took advantage. 

.@SloaneStephens takes the first set 6-4 over Coco Gauff 👀#USOpen pic.twitter.com/7ZLR2QbOmf

— ESPN (@espn) September 1, 2021

From that moment, Stephens was in complete control. She broke Gauff in the second set to take a 3-2 lead. She broke her once again to serve for the match with a double-break advantage, leading 5-2. Gauff failed to return her serve in a fitting end to a dominant effort by Stephens. 

— ESPN (@espn) September 2, 2021

Stephens, who has since struggled to approach the highs of her 2017 US Open title, then met Gauff for a hug at the net before thanking an appreciative Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd.

Stephens advances to face the winner between No. 16 seed Angelique Kerber and Anhelina Kalinina.

Barbora Krejcikova's quest for a second 2021 Grand Slam title survived without drama. The reigning French Open champion and No. 8 seed defeated American Christina McHale, 6-3, 6-1 Wednesday afternoon. She advances to face Kamilla Rakhimova in Round 3. 

Casper Ruud, seeded 8th at the US Open and ranked 11th in the world in men's singles, has been upset by the unseeded Botic van de Zandschulp.

Van de Zandschulp, who is ranked 117th in men's singles by the ATP, defeated Ruud 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 to advance to Round 3.

Ruud started the match by losing the first two games, but he quickly took control and easily won the first set. But then van de Zandschulp's game started coming together, and he started giving Ruud a major challenge. The two battled throughout the second set, but van de Zandschulp managed to string two games together, which neither had been able to do in the second set, and won 6-4. 

Ruud never looked like he was completely out of it, but by the third set van de Zandschulp was cooking with gas. 

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 1, 2021

Ruud's issue was finishing. He was able to stay with van de Zandschulp through the first few games of the final three sets, but each time he let van de Zandschulp get a game or so ahead of him and he couldn't catch up. 

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 1, 2021

While there's a chance that van de Zandschulp will end up winning the US Open, it's not likely. But if there was a contest for best name of the tournament, he'd win in a landslide.

No. 5 Andrey Rublev had some tough moments at the beginning of his match against Pedro Martinez (the tennis player, not the Hall of Fame pitcher), but he managed to shake them off and win 7-6(2), 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-1 to advance to Round 3.

Rublev looked shaky from the start. Martinez won the first three games and five of the first seven before Rublev could fight back and get some momentum going. He won three straight games, then forced a tiebreaker which he won easily. With that little comeback, it felt like his troubles were behind him. 

Then came the second set. Neither Rublev or Martinez managed to win more than one game in a row. After Martinez won a close tiebreaker, it looked like this match might become an epic, five-set battle. 

What a way to close out the second set 🙌@PedroMPortero | #USOpen pic.twitter.com/3OeoScTsMU

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 1, 2021

Unfortunately for fans, it wasn't to be. Rublev dominated the final two sets, allowing Martinez to win just one game in each. 

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 1, 2021

Rublev will face American Frances Tiafoe in Round 3.

A lot of seeded players advanced to Round 3 on Wednesday, which meant very few upsets but a lot of high quality tennis. 

No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev looked great in his 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 win over Dominik Koepfer.

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 1, 2021

Aryna Sabalenka, seeded No. 2 on the women's side, battled sore fingers throughout her match against Tamara Zidansek. She dominated anyway, winning 6-3, 6-1 in just 59 minutes, and will take on American Danielle Collins (No. 26) in Round 3. No. 12 Simona Halep also beat her opponent, Kristina Kucova, by the same score (6-3, 6-1), but it took nine more minutes. Halep will next face Elena Rybakina (No. 19).

No. 9 Garbiñe Muguruza and No. 18 Victoria Azarenka both won their matches on Wednesday, and they'll face each other in Round 3 on Thursday. Other winners include No. 5 Elina Svitolina, No. 20 Ons Jabeur, and No. 12 Felix Auger-Aliassime.

The match of the day belonged to Frances Tiafoe, who put on an energetic, animated show in his win over Guido Pella.

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 1, 2021

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 1, 2021

Sloane Stephens easily beats No. 21 seed Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-2, in just 66 minutes. Gauff's inexperience in Grand Slam matches was exposed.

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Stephens beats 21st seed 6-4, 6-2 to reach third roundFormer champion Angelique Kerber could await nextSloane Stephens v Coco Gauff – as it happened Sloane Stephens returns a shot against Coco Gauff during their US Open second-round match on Wednesday night at Flushing Meadows. Photograph: Frank Franklin II/AP Four years ago, Sloane Stephens made a stunning run to the US Open title as the world’s 83rd-ranked player. If the 28-year-old American keeps playing like she did on Wednesday night, there

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Three years ago, a reporter asked Sloane Stephens to point out a younger tennis player most fans might not have heard of yet, someone she thought could become a household name some day. Stephens paused to ponder, but not for long, before responding: Coco Gauff, then 14. Stephens had first met Gauff several years earlier — they last hit together on a court in Florida when Gauff was 12 — and clearly knew what she was talking about.

The Warriors are just ahead of the Timberwolves and Kings to trade for the embattled Sixers star.

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The 2017 champion relied on her wicked forehand to outmaneuver Coco Gauff in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2, moving into the third round in New York.

A U.S. Open night session at Arthur Ashe Stadium is an opportunity but also a responsibility.

Star power is highly recommended to fill the vast air and space, and Serena Williams has been providing it for more than 20 years, winning and losing memorably and sometimes tumultuously (see the 2018 U.S. Open final).

But the guard is changing in women’s tennis, and with Williams out of this U.S. Open with a hamstring injury and with her 40th birthday approaching, Wednesday night was left to Sloane Stephens and Coco Gauff, the two leaders of the American generations who have followed Williams and her older sister Venus.

They are big tennis shoes to fill, and it is surely fairer to all involved not to expect them to be filled anytime soon. It might also have been wiser not to play a night session at all on Wednesday considering the storm that later flooded roads and shut down not only the U.S. Open’s Louis Armstrong Stadium but the subway and made it a major challenge for fans, players and officials to make it home. The court in Ashe Stadium stayed dry as torrential rain pounded on its drumhead of a closed roof.

Stephens, 28, won the 2017 U.S. Open and remains a formidable talent but has been a flickering flame since that unexpected triumph. Gauff, the youngest player in the top 100 at age 17, is not yet ready to dominate but is certainly ready to impress, and was, at No. 21, the highest seeded American to play singles in this U.S. Open.

This was the first match but hardly their first meeting. Both Gauff and Stephens are based in South Florida and have worked with some of the same coaches. Gauff came to Stephens’ 21st birthday party. Stephens came to Gauff’s 10th.

“All my friends were excited that Sloane Stephens is at your birthday, professional tennis player,” Gauff said. “It was really cool.”

Two years later, according to Stephens, she and Gauff hit together at South County Regional Park in Boca Raton, Fla. That was of limited tactical use on Wednesday night.

“I definitely don’t remember how her ball felt when I was 12,” Gauff said with a good-natured chuckle. “She definitely was probably taking some pace off then.”

But Stephens was not playing nice this time, even if she was nothing but supportive of Gauff after her 6-4, 6-2 victory. Since the death of her grandparents and an aunt from Covid-19, she has rededicated herself to her craft in 2021, dropping weight, logging more hours of fitness and practice and rebuilding the platform for a return to the elite with the help of new coach Darian King, a former men’s tour player from Barbados.

Stephens is not back yet, as her ranking of 66 makes clear, but she did an excellent impression of her best tennis against Gauff. She set the pace and kept Gauff off balance with her signature shot: her forehand, once judged the finest in the women’s game in a New York Times poll of experts. She defended with quickness and conviction, put a remarkable 84 percent of her first serves in play and won 80 percent of the points when she did.

It was enough to put her back in the third round, where she will face former No. 1 Angelique Kerber or Anhelina Kalinina. Their match was postponed by the rain that blew horizontally through the gap under the roof on Louis Armstrong Stadium, ending all play there for the night.

Stephens is in a rough-and-tumble section of the draw, where defending U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka also lurks, but a deep run is hardly out of the question. When Stephens truly finds her groove, watch out. I asked her if she had felt Wednesday night’s performance coming.

“Obviously it’s tough when you’re unseeded,” she said. “You have tough first rounds. It’s harder to work your way into the tournament, so I think now I’m at the point where I’m able to be really competitive at the beginning of the tournaments, playing against top players. Obviously coming out of the pandemic, it was rocky road. I think for everyone it hasn’t been too consistent. I think you’ve just got to ride the wave. It’s kind of coming together, which is nice.”

Arthur Ashe Stadium is the place where it all came together for Stephens in 2017. She had returned to the tour only two months earlier after major foot surgery and was ranked just 83rd, but she beat Venus Williams in an all-American semifinal and routed Madison Keys, her best friend on tour, in an all-American final and then sparked laughter by looking wide-eyed at her $3.7 million champion’s check.

Unseeded again, she and Keys had to face off in the first round this year, with Stephens coming within two points of defeat before prevailing in a third-set tiebreaker.

Foreshadowing? We’ll see, but for Stephens, Arthur Ashe Stadium continues to retain a sprinkling of pixie dust.

“It’s a happy place,” she said. “Obviously I have had a lot of good memories there. For me, it’s a feel-good. I think being in this position, trying to work my way through the tournament, have tough matches, it’s nice to have that comfort, those moments to look back on.”

She has yet to win another Grand Slam title, coming close in 2018 before losing to Simona Halep in the French Open final. But though she has continued to run hot and cold, top coaches will tell you that Stephens should be much higher in the rankings with her talent and tools.

It is a question, in part, of commitment. “Sloane is in the best physical condition she’s been in years,” said Nick Saviano, a veteran coach who has long been a mentor to Stephens and watched her victory over Gauff on television. “She used a great blend of neutralizing defense and power and also had excellent court demeanor and presence. She is playing as well as anyone in the tournament.”

The trick is sustaining it, but Stephens seems clear that one of her motivators is using her stardom for causes she holds dear: her foundation that promotes education and healthy lifestyles for youth and the modest $20,000 college scholarship fund she started last month in memory of her grandparents, who prioritized education, and that she hopes grows into something bigger.

“I know how difficult it’s been the last year to 18 months for kids trying to pursue their higher education with everything that’s going on,” Stephens told me.

Stephens has had her own challenges, including the two weeks she spent in hard quarantine in January ahead of the Australian Open after someone tested positive for the coronavirus on her charter flight to Melbourne. She attended the funerals for her grandparents remotely during her quarantine: something she said she will “probably regret for the rest of my life.”

But she was in a better place on Wednesday night before she headed out into the stormy weather to return by vehicle to her lodging. Safely into the third round, she posed for photographs in front of a U.S. Open sign with her mother Sybil in the hallway outside the locker room. Fellow U.S. Open champions Chris Evert and Lindsay Davenport stopped by to congratulate Stephens.

“Good luck the rest of the tournament, Sloane,” Evert said as she took her leave.

The question is: how much tournament does Stephens have left?

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