Coco Gauff won over New York and became an instant fan favorite during her run of inspired tennis a year ago at the US Open. A year later, there were no fans, no energy and no singles victory for Gauff. The teen sensation is out on Day 1.
Anastasija Sevastova knocked off the 16-year-old Gauff in three sets 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 on Monday. The 31st-seeded Sevastova sent Gauff to her earliest exit from a Grand Slam tournament in four appearances. Gauff had never lost in the first two rounds.
“Just the beginning,” Gauff said. “I just got on tour a little over a year ago, so I still have a lot to learn and a long ways to go.”
She’s good enough at 16 to impress a veteran such as Sevastova.
“I wish I would play like this when I was 16 years old,” Sevastova said with a laugh. “Great player. Nothing more to say. I think she maybe started a bit slower than me, but she was getting better as the match went on.”
Gauff was largely off her game against Sevastova and had 13 double faults.
“The main part that hurt was just getting matches under my belt, getting experience,” Gauff said. “That’s what I need on tour. I’m playing against people older than me who have been in more situations, difficult situations, than I have. I think the biggest thing is I just need experience.”
Sevastova had been 1-8 in singles in 2020 and got the breakthrough win she needed in New York. She was a semifinalist at the US Open two years ago.
“I think it’s tough for everybody coming here,” she said. “But yeah, this first hurdle, I won a match again. I think it’s going to give me a bit of confidence.”
The No. 4-seeded Osaka’s movement was an issue at times, but she managed to win 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 against the 81st-ranked Doi in an empty Arthur Ashe Stadium as midnight approached. Osaka made 38 unforced errors, 13 more than her winner total.
Osaka is coming off a left hamstring injury that forced her to withdraw from the final of the Western & Southern Open on Saturday. She is now 34-1 in Grand Slam matches after taking the first set; the only loss came against Simona Halep at the 2016 French Open. Next up for Osaka is a match against Camila Giorgi of Italy.
“She’s very unpredictable for me,” Osaka said, “so I guess I just have to be on my toes.”
Before and after her match Monday, Osaka wore a black mask bearing the name of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency medical technician who was fatally shot in March when police officers burst into her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment using a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation.
That mask is one of seven face coverings, each in honor of a different person, that Osaka brought to Flushing Meadows. Seven is the number of wins it takes to claim a Grand Slam trophy. Osaka hopes she can raise awareness about racial injustice by using each mask during her stay in New York.
“It’s quite sad that seven masks isn’t enough for the amount of names, so hopefully I’ll get to the finals so you can see all of them,” said Osaka, the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open champion.
Earlier Monday, top-seeded Karolina Pliskova advanced in straight sets.
Pliskova surged ahead of Anhelina Kalinina 4-1 in the opening set, lost three games in a row and then took the last eight for a 6-4, 6-0 victory. Pliskova had a 26-7 edge in winners.
She is ranked third in the world but has the top seed in New York.
With staff and spectators limited because of the coronavirus pandemic, Arthur Ashe Stadium was eerily quiet for Pliskova’s match.
“I was like, ‘Should I cheer myself?'” Pliskova said.
In other early action Monday, three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber eliminated Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4, 6-4.
Kerber won the 2016 US Open but lost in the first round last year. She used to be ranked No. 1 and is seeded 17th in New York.
There were only about 15 people in the seats of Louis Armstrong Stadium for the start of Kerber’s match.
“It’s kind of a little bit the feeling when you play, like, practice matches,” Kerber said.
Kristina Mladenovic, who is among three players under enhanced coronavirus protocols, beat Hailey Baptiste 7-5, 6-2. Mladenovic had contact with Benoit Paire, who tested positive for COVID-19 and was removed from the tournament field.
“I am basically in a new ‘bubble in the bubble,’ so there’s not very much I’m allowed to do, which makes it tough for me to compete and mentally be kind of fresh and ready,” said Mladenovic, seeded 30th.
Baptiste said she was unaware that her opponent was one of the players who had been in contact with Paire. According to Baptiste, she rode in an elevator with Paire.
The 2019 French Open runner-up, Marketa Vondrousova, also advanced, beating Greet Minnen 6-1, 6-4.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.