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Coco Gauff wins her first match at the US Open after complaining that her opponent was too slow between the points

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Coco Gauff knew the perfect word to describe her win on day one of the US Open on Monday night.

“Slowly,” Gauff said during her on-court interview, then somehow suppressed a smile and paused for effect, prompting laughter from a packed crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium who shook her opponent, Laura Siegmund.

What Gauff meant was the pace of Siegemund, a 35-year-old German qualifier who took her time between points and never seemed ready to play when the 19-year-old Florida was. Sixth-seeded Gauff could also have been referring to her own start to the game, which she eventually turned around and won 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 to reach the second round at Flushing Meadows.

“I was really patient the whole game. She was running out of time from the first set. I never said anything. I was looking at the referee and she didn’t do anything,” said Gauff, who had a long discussion with official Marijana Veljovic in the third set. “Then, obviously, the crowd started noticing that she was taking time, so you could hear people in the crowd shouting, ‘It’s time! »

In the final match of the day, 23-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic made his return to the US Open beating Alexandre Muller 6-0, 6-2, 6-3. Djokovic couldn’t travel to the United States last year because he wasn’t vaccinated against COVID-19.

Siegemund, whose fouls drew applause and whose own back and forth with Veljovic drew ridicule, wept in his post-match press conference, saying the fans ‘had no respect for me’ .

“I’m very, very disappointed with the way people treated me today,” said Siegemund, who won the US Open titles in women’s doubles and mixed doubles. “It’s something that, I have to say, hurts a lot. There is no doubt that I am slow. …I should be faster. But at the same time, that’s how I play.

Siegemund added: “They treated me like I was a bad person. »

With former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle in the audience, Siegemund dominated Gauff for the first set, using all sorts of slices and great volleys.

Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama support Coco Gauff during her US Open women’s singles match on August 28, 2023 in New York City. Corey Sipkin/AFP-Getty Images

Gauff had lost her last two Grand Slam matches – including a first-round elimination at Wimbledon last month – and didn’t want to go easy or fast this time. As thousands of partisan fans grew increasingly vocal, she converted her eighth break point in a 30-point, 25-plus-minute game to start the second set.

“It was a tremendous mental boost,” Gauff said. “That match changed the dynamic in a vital way.”

It put her ahead for good. In the third set, Veljovic called Siegemund for a time violation. Brad Gilbert, who is one of two coaches working with Gauff lately, shook his head at how long it took Veljovic to step in, and his reaction made Gauff smile.

Serving while leading 3-0 in that set, Gauff had had enough and went to make her case.

“She’s never ready when I serve. … How is that fair? Gauff told Veljovic. “I’m going at normal speed. Ask any reference here. …I was silent the whole game. … Now that’s ridiculous. I don’t care what she does on her serve, but (on) my serve she has to be ready.

Gauff ended up retiring from that game. Later, Siegemund had a point deducted for delay, which put Gauff up 5-1. This prompted Siegemund to plead his case to Veljovic: “I can’t go to the towel anymore? — and drew a few boos.

There was another setback for Gauff towards the end: she served for the game at 5-2 in the third, but committed three double faults. Those were his only double faults in the entire 2 hour and 51 minute game.

In the end, she held on, and it was Gauff’s 12th win in 13 matches since the disappointing performance at the All England Club. This recent streak includes the two biggest titles of the American’s career and a victory over No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

Gauff and Swiatek could meet in the quarter-finals next week.

Ready to defend her US Open title in earnest, Swiatek won Monday’s opener at Ashe – it took her 58 minutes to oust Rebecca Peterson 6-0, 6-1 – but otherwise things were tough for some of the higher ranks. – seeded players.

No.4 Holger Rune was beaten 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 by Roberto Carballes Baena, 63rd; #8 Maria Sakkari lost 6-4, 6-4 to No. 71 Rebeka Masarova.

Sakkari said afterwards that she was bothered by the smell of marijuana in the air.

“The smell. Oh, my God,” Sakkari told the chair umpire during the first set. “It was weed.”

Rune had his own complaint – before the game.

The two-time Major quarter-finalist, 20, considered one of the next generation of men’s tennis stars, wasn’t thrilled to be sent to compete on Court 5, posting a map of the tournament ground to help his supporters to find the place.

“I just didn’t expect to play on this court,” Rune said afterwards. “It’s obviously disappointing, but it’s not going to put the loss in court.”

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