Photo: Mike Lawrence Story By: Ben Raby (www.twitter.com/benraby31) Photo
Coco Gauff came as advertised and delivered in her first match at the Citi Open.
Competing for the first time since her improbable run at Wimbledon, Gauff needed just 68 minutes to dispatch former NCAA All-American Maegan Manasse 6-4, 6-2 in the first round of women’s qualifying.
Gauff broke Manasse in in the first service game of each set and was seemingly in control throughout the match as she moved within one win of advancing to her third career main draw (Miami, Wimbledon).
“It felt great,” Gauff told reporters after her D.C. debut. “I’d never been to this tournament before and I’m really loving it so far. The crowd was amazing. The court was amazing. Everything was great.”
Gauff, 15, became a worldwide sensation earlier this month when she became the youngest player to reach the Round of 16 at Wimbledon since 1991. Her inclusion in the Citi Open made for a palpable buzz around the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center not usually seen on the first day of qualifying.
Despite the growing expectations that will now follow Gauff, she’s proven to be a cool, calm and collected teenager. Granted it was one match in a qualifying draw, but on Saturday, Gauff lived up to the hype and kept adding to her growing fan base.
Gauff also suggested to reporters that she may be even more comfortable moving forward in D.C., now that she’s gotten acclimated to the court conditions.
“Today I learned a lot about how the court plays here,” she said. “Compared to where I practice at home, the courts are a little bit slower, which is better for me because I feel like I have so much more time. I’m going to take that into my next match.”
Gauff (world No.143) returns to Stadium Court Sunday afternoon when she’ll face Japan’s Hiroko Kuwata (world No.265) with a berth in the main draw at stake.