July 12, 2024

Open Court


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Trying to think of the last time a player held a very well-attended press conference after … a first-round qualifying match.

But that’s what went on at the Citi Open Saturday, after the 15-year-old American took care of Maegan Manasse 6-4, 6-2.

Gauff drew a big-time crowd to the stadium court. Literally you rarely even see this during the daytime in the first few days of the main draw.

And she drew a crowd to the press conference afterwards, too.

Gauff will play Hiroko Kuwata of Japan in the second and final round Sunday, to try to reach the main draw of only the third WTA level tournament of her career.

(That includes Wimbledon, which was the second and at which she reached the second week – ergo all the Coco-mania).

Signing anything and everything

Gauff spent significant time after the match signing anything thrown at her, offering smiles and selfies to everyone.

This is all so very new, and she’s handling it beautifully. She even said in her press conference afterwards that she remembered what it was like when she was a kid and went autograph-hunting, and how much it means. So she said she was determined to sign and smile as much as she could.

Qualies draw not the strongest

If Gauff was 20 out of the qualifying as recently as 10 days ago, the field thinned out quickly. And, in the end, she was able to squeeze in with plenty of room to spare.

With her current ranking of No. 143, she wouldn’t have been too far out of the main draw here. As it was, she’s the No. 1 seed in the qualifying despite being one of the last entries to make the list.

The tournament had already invited her to take part in the kids’ day, and play an exhibition. In the end, she didn’t play the exhibition. And she didn’t take part in the kids’ day activities Sunday, which took place earlier in the day on the stadium court.

She had a match to get ready for.

Kuwata is a 28-year-old currently ranked No. 265. Her peak was No. 150 back in May 2016.

Four days ago, she lost in the first round of the Granby Challenger in Canada, to American Elisabeth Halbauer.

This is going to be quite a different experience.

Kuwata beat qualifying alternate and doubles specialist Maria Sanchez, 4-6, 7-5, 6-0 in the first round.

Manasse, 24, is a former University of California standout who is currently ranked No. 338 (No. 182 in doubles).

Those are pretty close to her career bests. This was the first time she had ever even played in a WTA Tour event. So you can understand why she had a smile on her face when it was over, even in defeat.

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