WASHINGTON, D.C. – If you’re going to put a 15-year-old girl in a situation where she has a lot to lose, there’s a risk of exactly what occurred Tuesday at the Citi Open.
Coco Gauff, just 15 but already the subject of so much attention, went out on the second-largest court (not the stadium, surprisingly, given trends) to face a veteran player who didn’t have the resumé of the three veterans she defeated at Wimbledon a few weeks ago.
But all of the buildup clearly showed on her face. And Diyas, a 25-year-old from Kazakhstan who has won matches at the lower levels this year but struggled at the WTA level, didn’t flinch as the others did.
She was steady, and solid. And during the world No. 84’s 6-4, 6-2 victory, the most striking thing was the look of abject dismay on Gauff’s face throughout. Even when she would hit a good shot and pump her fist, her face still betrayed her.
A few times in the second set it appeared she was doing her best to hold back tears. Or perhaps it was sweat. Let’s hope it was just sweat.
Here’s what it looked like.
Gauff able to smile in press
The tournament people – and her people, because she already has plenty of people – made sure Gauff had plenty of time to gear down, collect herself, and regain her precocious poise before she came in for her third press conference in four days.
While the questions were kind (they are generally fairly gushing here anyway), there wasn’t much analysis about how and why it all seemed to suddenly hit her.
It’s no surprise that it did. And you don’t like to see it.
But at least she was able to smile when it was all over.
Nearly 18 rules the day Tuesday
While this was happening, it was notable that Hailey Baptiste and Gauff’s doubles partner Caty McNally – both of whom turn 18 in November – posted straight-set wins in their first-round matches.
Both received wild cards. Baptiste, notably, upset No. 2 seed Madison Keys in her WTA Tour debut.
Maybe they don’t have the same upside. And certainly they haven’t made the same splash as they entered the pros. But at that age, those 2 1/2 years make a huge difference.
On Tuesday, Gauff looked so very … 15, for the first time since she exploded onto the stage.
Perhaps some people had forgotten. So in a way, it was a good reminder.
She and McNally will go out on the doubles court Wednesday, weather permitting, and try to reach the quarterfinals against two obscure players, Hsieh Yu-Chieh of Taipei and Xiaodi You of China.
Hopefully she’ll be able to have some fun.