U.S. Open expected to produce surprises in the unnerving calm of a fanless Flushing Meadows has expectedly delivered on day one.
The surprise was in American teen sensation Coco Gauff being eliminated from the first round of a Grand Slam for the first time.
Gauff, whose run to the third round ignited last year’s tournament, bowed out 6-3 5-7 6-4 to Anastasija Sevastova at an empty Louis Armstrong Stadium on Monday.
She reached the fourth round at the Australian Open in January and Wimbledon in her Grand Slam main draw debut last year.
So, the 16-year-old Gauff had never felt the pain of an early exit from the majors.
Adding weight to the disappointment was the long break between Grand Slams, with the COVID-19 pandemic having cancelled Wimbledon and postponed Roland Garros.
“I could have played better today (Monday),” Gauff told reporters.
“I just got on Tour a little over a year ago. So, I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go.”
The young American was far from her best against former semi-finalist Sevastova, who came into the match on a run of seven consecutive first round defeats.
Gauff struck 13 double-faults and surrendered the error-strewn contest with a service break against 30-year-old Sevastova, the 31st seed in the women’s draw.
It is a draw lacking about a quarter of the Tour’s top 100 players.
The lack of fans at the stadium was no issue for Gauff, who had said she would compete “just as hard” with or without them.
However, the long break from competition may not have helped, said Gauff, who lost her first match at the Western and Southern Open to Greek Maria Sakkari in the lead-up.
“The main part that hurt was just (not) getting matches under my belt, getting experience,” added Gauff.
“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.”