Nate Chura | Citi Open Tennis
A star-studded Thursday night on Stadium Court also featured the debut of the inaugural Citi Open Women’s Invitational.
Competing for the first time since her fourth-round run at Wimbledon earlier this summer, American teen phenom Coco Gauff, 17, reminded fans of her great potential.
The Atlanta native dazzled the crowd on Stadium Court with a resounding win over two-time Australian Open champion and former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, 6-3, 6-1, to take the lead in the new round-robin tournament.
"I'm very grateful that I'm being put on these big courts," said Gauff, who first played in Washington as a 15-year-old in 2019.
"It gives more people the opportunity to see me play for the first time or maybe the second or third time, and I do like the bigger courts. I like it loud in the stands. Obviously, I'm always excited to play on a big court, but also like no matter what court I play, as long as I have my dad or one person out there watching me, I think I'll be okay no matter what."
Gauff, who reached a career-high ranking of No. 23 in the world this June and is currently ranked No. 25, showed why most tennis experts believe she will be the next great American champion.
Gauff broke Azarenka early in the first set and threatened to do so again in the seventh game, but the former world No.1 was able to fend off her Next-Gen rival, temporarily. But Gauff didn’t let up.
After holding to go up 5-3, the 2019 Citi Open doubles champ broke again to take the first set and continued to cruise in the second. After falling behind, 0-5, Azarenka finally got on the scoreboard, but it was too little, too late. Gauff won all four points in the final game to earn her first win of the Invitational.
Azarenka will look to rebound today as the Belarusian faces Buffalo native and 2019 Citi Open champion Jessica Pegula.
The Azarenka v. Pegula showdown will be third afternoon match on Stadium Court.
Gauff and Pegula will close out round-robin play on Saturday, Aug. 7.
The format is best-of-3 sets, regular scoring, with a 10-point super-tiebreak to decide the third.
The player with the best record will be crowned the champion. In the event of a tie, the champion will be decided by most sets, or if necessary, most games won.
The inaugural champion will receive $25,000 in prize money. The Women’s Sports Foundation will be the beneficiary of the tournament and receive a $50,000 donation from the Citi Open, Citi, and the Mark and Sally Ein Foundation.