Coco Gauff Loses in the First Round of the U.S. Open

She spent the forced break at home in Delray Beach, Fla., practicing with her father Corey and her co-coach Jean-Christophe Faurel. She then played a strong comeback tournament at the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., defeating two seeded players — Aryna Sabalenka and Ons Jabeur — in taut three-set tussles before losing in the semifinals to Jennifer Brady, the eventual champion.

But she was unable to produce consistent tennis in the two-tournament bubble in New York, losing 6-1, 6-3 in the first round of the Western & Southern Open to Maria Sakkari, the No. 13 seed, and then losing to Sevastova in their first meeting.

It seems premature to speculate about a sophomore slump. But Gauff’s serve and forehand have been less than dependable in recent weeks with double faults and errors piling up. Sevastova repeatedly played to Gauff’s forehand on important points and that included the final game, when Gauff made four unforced errors off that wing, including the final stroke of the match, which landed in the net on Sevastova’s fourth match point.

“It’s surprising that Coco’s serve was not retooled more during pause of play,” said Pam Shriver, a former U.S. Open singles finalist who is now an ESPN analyst, in a post on Twitter. “Toss too high. Toss too erratic. Pause on take-back too long. Not enough weight transfer.”

Until Monday, Sevastova had not won a singles match in a regular tour event this season, going 0-7. But her only other victory in 2020 was a big one: coming against Serena Williams in Latvia’s 3-2 defeat to the United States in a Fed Cup qualifying round match. That was Williams’s first singles loss in Fed Cup, which, it should be pointed out, she has played sparingly through the decades.

But when in form, Sevastova’s unusual game can bewitch the opposition, and she deployed her arsenal of pace changes and drop shots effectively against Gauff, one of the fastest players on tour even at her young age.

“She’s moving so well, it’s tough to finish the point,” Sevastova said. “She hits amazing backhand. Forehand for sure could be better. Still, it’s uncomfortable to play her.”

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