Gauff, Sock get US Open singles wild cards

As previously announced, the US Open organizers went against the WTA age-eligibility rules and decided to hand 15-year-old American Coco Gauff a wild card into the US Open women’s singles.

On the men’s side, former top-10 singles player and former US Open mixed doubles champion Jack Sock heads the list.

Three other young female Americans also were named Tuesday.

Caty McNally, the 17-year-old who won the Citi Open doubles with Gauff and had a wild card into the Cincinnati tournament this week, will join Gauff.

(You’d suspect they’ll get a wild card into the women’s doubles together as well).

Former junior No. 1 Whitney Osuigwe, who is still 17 herself and currently ranked a career-best No. 105, gets one. Of course,

Oswuigwe is only a few withdrawals away from earning the spot on her own merit, with No. 102 Svetlana Kuznetsova having just entered the main draw with the withdrawal of Dominika Cibulkova.

Andreescu
Osuigwe at the US Open last year. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Francesco Di Lorenzo, a 22-year-old lefty who attended Ohio State and qualified at the Rogers Cup last week, also earned a wild-card invitation. She stands at a career-high No. 128 this week.

26 is the new 18

The group on the men’s side is a fair bit older – and definitely has a theme. Bjorn Fratangelo (26), Marcos Giron (26), Denis Kudla (26) join Sock who is – you guessed it – 26.

Sock

Kudla is currently ranked No. 111. But he was right at No. 100 at the entry deadline for the final major of the year. And thus will be next in when someone withdraws.

With players like Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych on that list, that’s a near-certainty.

(UPDATE: Shortly after this announcement, del Potro did in fact pull out, leaving the main-draw spot for Kudla. Chris Eubanks received the wild-card instead, and we would expect that, like last year, he might also team up in the mixed with Coco Gauff).

The announcement today explains why Andy Murray had to make a call Monday about whether or not to take a US Open wild card. He decided not to, as he wasn’t prepared for the grind of best-of-five sets.

That was in line with that he said in Washington, D.C. two weeks ago.

However, there may still be one dangling up there in the case of a sudden change of heart for Murray, because of Kudla’s situation.

Reciprocal wild cards and challenge winner

Australia’s reciprocal wild card has been given to 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur, while Diane Parry gets the French federation reciprocal.

The French reciprocal has been awarded to Antoine Hoang, currently ranked No. 101. Hoang, 23, would be close to getting in on his own if this week’s ranking counted.

As it is, he’s fifth in line to get in, on the entry list.

Katie Volynets, who won the girls 18s national event last week also gets one as does Zachary Svajda, who won the boys’ 18s.

Kristie Ahn won the US Open Wild Card Challenge that tabulated results earlier in the hard-court season and earned the final wild card spot. Ernesto Escobedo won the equivalent wild card on the men’s side.

Typically, the Aussies had held a “US Open wild card playoff” in the U.S. to determine that wild card, held at the venue in New Haven. They certainly have a large group of female players competing at the various WTA and ITF tournaments in North America this summer.

But it appears they have just unilaterally handed it to Stosur this year, on the basis of her being a former champion. But their men’s reciprocal remains to be determined.

Qualifying WCs

Men:

JC Aragone
Jenson Brooksby
Maxime Cressy
Sebastian Korda
Stefan Kozlov
Govind Nanda
Sam Riffice
Alex Rybakov
JJ Wolf

Women:

Hailey Baptiste
Reese Brantmeier 
Caroline Dolehide
Vicky Duval
Jamie Loeb
Bethanie Mattek-Sands
Emma Navarro
Shelby Rogers
Katrina Scott 

Gauff forlorn in main-draw defeat

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

Gauff cruises to Citi Open main draw (video)

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.

Gauff cruises to Citi Open main draw (video)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Once she got into the qualifying, few had much doubt that 15-year-old Coco Gauff would make it through two matches in a draw that, let’s be honest, was very doable.

And she did. Gauff routined Hiroko Kuwata of Japan 6-1, 6-2 in 64 minutes Sunday to advance to the Citi Open main draw.

Her first-round opponent will be Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan.

But first, she’ll play doubles with Caty McNally Monday.

If she can get through the Diyas match, she would face the winner of the match between No. 5 seed Lesia Tsurenko and Yafan Wang of China.

You would also expect her, as she did for both her qualifying matches, to be put on the stadium court. We’ll see how that works out.

Monday would have been a relatively easy scheduling job. But as the week goes on, there are a lot of seeds to place. And with the men’s event being an ATP 500, they tend to get priority over the WTA, for which it is a lowest-level International event.

However, Coco Mania shows no signs of slowing down. It undoubtedly might not sit that well with some of the players. Which is not Gauff’s problem.

Here’s what the teenager said in her second press conference in two days.

Gauff said during her press conference that the entire family was on hand – including her two little brothers and her grandparents.

Had she not made it into the qualifying, they would have done some sightseeing in D.C.

It wasn’t too hard to pick out her little brothers in the crowd. Pretty strong family resemblance.

Gauff
It was easy to spot Coco Gauff’s little brothers in the crowd (and Grandma, who is a hottie). (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Coco Gauff a big deal in D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Trying to think of the last time a player held a very well-attended press conference after … a first-round qualifying match.

But that’s what went on at the Citi Open Saturday, after the 15-year-old American took care of Maegan Manasse 6-4, 6-2.

Gauff drew a big-time crowd to the stadium court. Literally you rarely even see this during the daytime in the first few days of the main draw.

And she drew a crowd to the press conference afterwards, too.

Gauff will play Hiroko Kuwata of Japan in the second and final round Sunday, to try to reach the main draw of only the third WTA level tournament of her career.

(That includes Wimbledon, which was the second and at which she reached the second week – ergo all the Coco-mania).

Signing anything and everything

Gauff spent significant time after the match signing anything thrown at her, offering smiles and selfies to everyone.

This is all so very new, and she’s handling it beautifully. She even said in her press conference afterwards that she remembered what it was like when she was a kid and went autograph-hunting, and how much it means. So she said she was determined to sign and smile as much as she could.

Qualies draw not the strongest

If Gauff was 20 out of the qualifying as recently as 10 days ago, the field thinned out quickly. And, in the end, she was able to squeeze in with plenty of room to spare.

With her current ranking of No. 143, she wouldn’t have been too far out of the main draw here. As it was, she’s the No. 1 seed in the qualifying despite being one of the last entries to make the list.

The tournament had already invited her to take part in the kids’ day, and play an exhibition. In the end, she didn’t play the exhibition. And she didn’t take part in the kids’ day activities Sunday, which took place earlier in the day on the stadium court.

She had a match to get ready for.

Kuwata is a 28-year-old currently ranked No. 265. Her peak was No. 150 back in May 2016.

Four days ago, she lost in the first round of the Granby Challenger in Canada, to American Elisabeth Halbauer.

Gauff
On Wednesday, Kuwata lost in the first round of the ITF in Granby, Quebec. Sunday, she faces 15-year-old Coco Gauff on the stadium court at the Citi Open for an opportunity to make the main draw. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

This is going to be quite a different experience.

Kuwata beat qualifying alternate and doubles specialist Maria Sanchez, 4-6, 7-5, 6-0 in the first round.

Manasse, 24, is a former University of California standout who is currently ranked No. 338 (No. 182 in doubles).

Those are pretty close to her career bests. This was the first time she had ever even played in a WTA Tour event. So you can understand why she had a smile on her face when it was over, even in defeat.

Gauff

Coco Gauff taking her talents to D.C.

Big “news” from the Citi Open and the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation will get fans in the area excited to see Coco Gauff at the joint WTA/ATP event, which begins July 29.

The 15-year-old from Florida made quite a splash at Wimbledon when she defeated Venus Williams in the first round.

Gauff made the second week before losing to eventual champion Simona Halep.

Except … it’s a fairly misleading bit of hype.

Gauff cannot accept any more wild cards this year, as she’s already used up her quota under the age eligibility rules.

In the small print, lies the actual situation.

It takes a bit of work to find it. It’s not even on the home page.

Way down the qualifying list

Gauff had entered the Citi Open qualifying on her own ranking, which now stands at No. 141 after her Wimbledon effort but was at No. 313 before Wimbledon.

That’s why she needed a wild card into the qualifying at Roehampton.

But this is not news to the tournament. The deadline for the D.C. qualifying was the first day of Wimbledon.

Obviously her circumstances have changed since then.

If you dig into the tournament’s website a little bit, you see what’s actually going on.

“Gauff is scheduled to host the Citi Open Kids’ Day powered by Net Generation on Sunday, July 28. If she does not earn a place in the qualifying tournament, she plans to practice on site and also participate in a fan event on Saturday, July 27, and compete in a practice match on Stadium Court on Sunday, July 28.”

Oh.

The Citi Open qualifying draw is only 16, with 14 direct entries.

Gauff is currently … 20th in line to be next in. Okay, maybe 19th, as countrywoman Shelby Rogers got into the main draw on her protected ranking, and is in front of of Gauff on the qualifying list with her actual ranking.

So unless there’s a mass disappearance, she won’t make it.

Coco on display

Gauff

You would imagine the tournament is paying her a promotional fee of some kind. Not that she really needs it; she’s had a good month, earning the equivalent of $222,000 US between singles and mixed doubles at Wimbledon.

And no doubt their intentions are honorable. But there’s just this little whiff of exploitation in the air on this one, of treating Gauff like a curiosity people can come and gawk at. 

Or are we overthinking it?

Maybe they’re putting a little subtle pressure on the WTA to make an exception of some kind and let them give her a wild card – at least into the qualifying.

As we keep reminding everyone, she’s only 15. Gauff should be enjoying a bit of summer at home with her friends and family, processing everything that happened to her in London. And resting the body. Gauff faced a series of opponents that played at a much higher level than she’s accustomed to.

Official quotes

Here’s the quote from Mark Ein, who took over the Citi Open this year.

“Coco’s story is a perfect fit with the history and mission of our tournament and, as potentially the next great American star, she also embodies our future and our re-imagination of this storied tennis event … “Coco’s fairytale run at Wimbledon captured the hearts of fans worldwide and Washington DC cannot wait to host her first post-Wimbledon tennis appearance back in the United States at the Citi Open.  We hope she gets into the qualifying but if not, we will provide our community and her fans a great opportunity to meet here and watch her play and practice as she prepares for the US Open.”

And here’s the official quote from Gauff:

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be in front of American fans in our nation’s capital at the Citi Open. The last few weeks have been amazing and I’m excited about coming to Washington, D.C. to connect with all the fans, especially the young kids, who have been giving me so much support this summer. Hopefully I will also have the opportunity to keep this momentum going on the court starting at the Citi Open straight through the US Open.”

U.S. girls, Spanish boys win in Budapest

The American junior Fed Cup team will hold on to the trophy, after defending its title Sunday in Budapest, Hungary.

And the Spanisb boys came back from the brink to defeat France and win the junior Davis Cup.

The girls’ final against Ukraine came down to a match tiebreak in the deciding doubles, won 11-9 by Americans Coco Gauff and Alexa Noel over Lyubov Kostenko and Dasha Lopatetskaya.

The Americans had been down 1-4 and 6-8 in the tiebreak.

The squad was led by the youngest member, 14-year-old Coco Gauff. Ma is 15, Noel 16.

The team eye black for the final was an especially good touch.

Budapest

“I’m really proud of my team. We’ve overcome a lot this week. Me, Alexa and Connie (Ma) hadn’t really spoken before this trip, so I think we make such a great team, constantly supporting each other no matter what the score,” Gauff told the ITF website.

“This has been such a long week. Alexa and I have had some long, tense battles. We might not have always played well, but I think we’re champions because we fought harder.”

Third-time matchup for Gauff

Down 0-1, Gauff needed to win her singles against Lopatetskaya (who defeated her in the US Open juniors last month), to keep her team alive.

She did, 6-1, 4-6, 6-0.

A year ago, at 13, had been in the same situation, against the same opponent. The U.S. and Ukraine met in the finals of the under-14 world junior championships in both 2016 and 2017.

Noel had been part of the 2016 under-14 squad that had lost that deciding double match tiebreak against Ukraine.

Slovakia defeated Russia for the bronze.

The American girls had a tough act to follow. Last year, the powerhouse team of Amanda Anisimova, Katy McNally and Whitney Osuigwe (all junior Slam champions or finalists), won the junior Fed Cup. But they aged out of it this year.

Canadian girls make playoff round

The Canadian team, led by 16-year-old junior French Open semifinalist Leylah Annie Fernandez (with Jada Bui and Sara-Maude Fortin), made it out of their pool but were beaten by Russia in the quarterfinals. 

Fernandez went 5-1 at No. 1 singles. But the squad went 1-5 at No. 2.

Spanish boys beat France

Budapest

In the junior Davis Cup final, the team of Carlos Alcaraz Garfia, Pablo Llamas Ruiz and Mario Gonzalez Fernandez were up against versus France.

After dropping the first rubber, Spain was down to the wire as Harold Mayot had a match point on Alcarez Garfia at 6-4, 5-3 and the Spaniard serving. Mayot also had a shot at serving out the victory at 6-4, 5-4. But he couldn’t make it.

Spain then won that second singles rubber, and the doubles was routine.

The last time Spain won the junior Davis Cup was 2013, when Jaume Munar (now in the top 100 in the ATP Tour rankings), was on the team. 

It’s too early to predict stardom for the Spanish kids. But the ITF’s report on the story notes that Albert Costa was on the winning 1991 squad. Tommy Robredo and Marc Lopez won it in 1998 and Roberto Bautista Agut was on the winning team in 2004. Oh yes, Rafael Nadal was part of the 2002 team that defeated the U.S. in the final.

American, Canadian boys out of medals

Budapest
Kodat at the US Open juniors last month. He ran up against world No. 1 junior Tseng. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

The American squad of Toby Kodat, Martin Damm and Alexander Lee went 1-2 in their pool group, and so could not advance to the medal playoff round.

The kids did sweep all three matches in the second pool (9th-16th) to maximize, finishing ninth overall.

(The Canadian team of Joshua LapadatIlya Tiraspolsky and Antoine Marleau didn’t make it out of their pool. They defeated Morocco, but lost to Japan and Italy but finished second in the 9th-16th pool).

(Material from the ITF website was liberally used in this post, with the links above. Photos (except where noted) from the ITF/Srdjan Stevanovic)

Gauff, Eubanks pull off big mixed upset (photos)

NEW YORK – There are always surprises in mixed doubles – especially at the US Open, it seems.

Remember when Melanie Oudin and Jack Sock, 19 and 18 at the time, ran the table and won the title in 2011?

They upset Bob Bryan and Liezel Huber in the second round on the way.

On Friday, in the first round of this year’s event, 22-year-old Christopher Eubanks and junior sensation Cori Gauff upset the No. 3 seeds, Henri Kontinen and Hao-Ching Chan.

Gauff, the defending US Open junior champ and reigning French Open junior champion, is still just 14.

They did it in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4. And they certainly didn’t do it in traditional doubles fashion, more often than not staying back at the baseline.

But Gauff, so much younger than the rest, was as poised as any of them. Kontinen is 28, and reached the Wimbledon final last year with Heather Watson. Chan, 24, reached the US Open mixed final last year with Michael Venus.

Here’s what it looked like.

Another American wild-card team, Taylor Townsend and Donald Young, didn’t fare as well. They were defeated by Nadiia Kichenok of Ukraine and Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands 6-1, 7-5 in their first match.

On the last of a series of tough weather days, Townsend had just finished a long, tough match against No. 10 seed Jelena Ostapenko in singles, losing 6-4 in the third set, before returning to court for mixed.

Gauff

Good crop of African-American players

Young and Townsend, despite an age difference, have been friends since childhood. Townsend is even coached by Young’s father, Donald. Sr. This is the fifth time they’ve teamed up for mixed at the US Open, they reached the semifinals in 2014.

Along with Eubanks and Gauff, they form part of an encouraging group of African-American players who are taking part.

Michael Mmoh will play, with Amanda Anisimova, on Friday against Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jamie Murray (another tough ask).

And Frances Tiafoe (beaten in the second round of singles Thursday by fellow Next-Gener Alex de Minaur of Australia), will team up with young Whitney Osuigwe against No. 2 seeds Oliver Marach of Austria and American Wimbledon women’s doubles champion Nicole Melichar.

“Dynamic Jew-O” eliminated

New Yorkers Jamie Loeb and Noah Rubin, the self-titled “Dynamic Jew-O”, had a tough one against No. 1 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Mate Pavic of Croatia.

They recovered well after being bageled (pardon the pun, okay?) in the first set. But they ultimately went down 6-0, 6-4.

Here are a VERY young Oudin and Sock, after they won their title.

Oudin turns 27 in a few weeks, Sock turns 26. Oudin is already retired and is around doing some media work at the tournament.

Sock, who lost in the second round of singles to Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia (the country, not the state), continues to scuffle this season after a great finish to 2017 and a leap into the top 10.

He is the No. 3 seed in the men’s doubles with Mike Sock.

“Old-timer” Anisimova wins girls’ title

At 16, and with some main draw Grand Slam experience already under her belt, Amanda Anisimova was a grizzled veteran next to her opponent in the US Open junior girls’ singles final.

And she acted like it.

Anisimova defeated Cori (CoCo) Gauff 6-0, 6-2 in an hour and five minutes to win her 1st junior Grand Slam title.

“Since last time I played her, she’s gotten a lot stronger, and she hits the ball really big. She has a really big serve, so she’s pretty tough to play, and she’s just really fast and overall a great athlete. She’s tough to play,” Anisimova. “I think I have improved a lot. You know, I started playing smarter since last year. Just thinking about how to, like, push your opponent off the court and just play with your mind, and not your body.”

Gauff, who was in the tournament on a wild card, is … 13 years old.

Anisimova
Gauff, just 13, reached the US Open junior girls’ final in just her fourth ITF-level junior event.

Her big “get” this week was a straight-sets win over Canadian-American Carson Branstine in the second round,

Branstine, 17, was the No. 5 seed.

Some of her Gauff’s opponents also upset seeded players. And Gauff maximized by beating them. But against Anisimova, who already is at a career-high No. 182 in the WTA Tour rankings and earned her way into the women’s singles qualifying on her own ranking, she was outclassed.

The match might have been quicker. But the final game lasted an eternity.

Anisimova needed 10 match points to close it out as Gauff hung tough all the way to the end.

“I thought she did well changing the direction of the ball and hitting winners. I was hitting hard, but she would hit it right back. Most of the time it was down the line, and she was hitting good shots on both sides of the court. Today I thought she played well,” said Gauff, who is in the eighth grade and lists Serena Williams as her idol.

Interested parties

Williams’ agent Jill Smoller and coach Patrick Mouratoglou were among those checking out the match. But Gauff said she has no plans to turn pro any time soon. She has trained at Mouratoglou’s academy.

Both players are based in Florida (Anisimova near Miami, and Gauff in Delray Beach). Anisimova’s mother left to evacuate her grandmother and relocate her to Charlotte, N.C. So it was a challenge for both to put the potential destruction wrought by Hurricane Irma out of their minds and just play tennis.

Anisimova’s junior adieu

This will be Anisimova’s last junior event, as she plays pro tournaments full time even though she will be limited in the number by the WTA’s age restrictions.

How quickly it all goes.

Anisimova was considered highly precocious when she reached the girls’ final at the French Open a year ago. She was a couple of months away from turning 15, and it was her first junior Grand Slam event.

She hadn’t come close to taking that next step in the ensuing major junior events, until finally coming through in New York.

Anisimova
CoCo Gauff with her parents and the runner-up plate. Her grandmother also was on hand.

Gauff is a year and a half younger than Anisimova was then. And this was just her fourth ITF-level junior event – period. She made her debut at Roehampton on a wild card, then received another wild card into the Wimbledon junior qualifying.

“Every part of it. Every single part of it was so much fun, being on-site, being here, being – just being at the US Open in New York was the most fun. I enjoyed every single part being here,” she said.

Big-time American girls’ pipeline

All-American women’s semis? An All-American final? All-American junior girls’ final? The women are handling it.

“The success of our women and girls this year has been dramatic and comprehensive. It is a reflection of the fact that the pipeline is full, and it will have a huge, demonstrative and inspirational effect on all our players, male and female,” USTA Player Development GM Martin Blackman said.

American girls won three of the four junior girls’ titles at the Grand Slam tournaments this year. Whitney Osuigwe defeated another American, Claire Liu, to win the French Open juniors.

Liu turned around and won junior Wimbledon, where she defeated American Ann Li.

Li lost in the first round here. Liu didn’t play (she played the women’s qualifying). Osuigwe was the No. 1 seed; she lost in the second round to Anastasia Kharitonova of Russia.