Coco Gauff lost in the first round of the U.S. Open on Monday to No, 30 Anastasija Sevastova. Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

 

NEW YORK — Coco Gauff won over New York and became an instant fan favorite during her run of inspired tennis a year ago at the U.S. Open. A year later, no fans, no energy, and no singles victory for Gauff – the teen sensation is out of the U.S. Open on Day 1.

Anastasija Sevastova knocked off the 16-year-old Gauff in three sets, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. The 31st-seeded Sevastova sent Gauff to her earliest exit from a Grand Slam tournament in four appearances. She had never lost in the first two rounds.

“Just the beginning,” Gauff said Monday. “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 like 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 lost in Louis Armstrong Stadium, where she won two matches last year and made it to the third round before losing to 2018 champion Naomi Osaka in a match that ended in tears for the teen and a hug from the winner.

After collecting a singles trophy at Linz, Austria, in October – becoming the youngest WTA title winner since 2004 – Gauff began the 2020 Grand Slam season by defeating Venus Williams and winning a rematch against Osaka at the Australian Open en route to the fourth round there.

Gauff was largely off her game against Sevastova and had 13 double-faults, an unsettling result after she also lost in the first round in the Western & Southern Open, the tournament that preceded the U.S. Open at the same site. She was also beaten at Lexington, Kentucky, this month in the semifinals of her first tournament after tennis was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“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.”

Top-seeded Karolina Pliskova surged ahead of Anhelina Kalinina 4-1 in the opening set, lost three games in a row, then took the last eight for a 6-4, 6-0 victory. She had a 26-7 edge in winners. Pliskova is ranked third in the world but has the top seed in New York.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber is sticking around longer after beating Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4, 6-4. Kerber won the 2016 U.S. Open but lost in the first round a year ago. She used to be ranked No. 1 and is seeded 17th in New York.

On the men’s side on the first day of play, No. 9 seed Diego Schwartzman blew a two-set lead and was knocked out in the first round.

He led 2-0 but appeared to have problems with cramps as he lost to Cameron Norrie 3-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 7-5 in a match that took nearly 4 hours.

Top-seeded Novak Djokovic breezed past Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 6-4, 6-1. Djokovic is the overwhelming favorite to win his fourth men’s championship and he cruised in his first-round matchup at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Djokovic pounded his chest and raised his racket in the air, keeping his celebratory routine intact even without fans in the stadium.

Djokovic is 24-0 in 2020 and has won 18 of his last 19 matches overall in Grand Slam tournaments.

Steve Johnson knocked off 16th-seeded John Isner 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (3) to advance to the second round of the U.S. Open in a match that stretched 3 hours, 50 minutes. Seventh-seeded David Goffin held on to beat Reilly Opelka 7-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 and 19th-seeded Taylor Fritz topped Dominik Koepfer 6-7, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

And, of course, there were no raucous roars or belittling boos for any matches.

“Normally, the first day of the U.S. Open, there’s usually just like a buzz around the grounds. Today it was just quiet. That was weirdest thing for me,” said Mitchell Krueger, an American who beat Pedro Sousa, 3-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-3. “When I was warming up at 10 a.m., that would have been the time the gates would have been opening in a normal year and people (would) start rushing to the courts and getting good seats for the matches.”

There were about 15 people in the seats at 14,000-capacity Louis Armstrong Stadium for the start of Kerber’s victory.

When Kerber broke to take the first game, one person – her coach – clapped.

“It’s kind of a little bit the feeling when you play, like, practice matches,” Kerber said.

And other than some fake, piped-in crowd noise and loud music blaring on changeovers, there was almost no sound at all in cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium for its first match of the tournament, Pliskova’s 6-4, 6-0 victory over Anhelina Kalinina.

Said Pliskova: “I was like, ‘Should I cheer myself?’”

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