Listen to this article here
Coco Gauff showed up and showed out on Thursday night’s US Open semifinal. Match point after match point, grind after grind, and a 40-shot exchange ultimately propelled the Florida teenager to the biggest match of her young life.
Gauff, a 19-year-old, reached her first final at Flushing Meadows by defeating Karolina Muchova 6-4, 7-5 on an extraordinary evening unpredictably halted by environmental activists.
Climate activist takes ‘ten toes down’ literally
Gauff was up by a set and 1-0 in the second when play was disrupted from seats in an upper level of the arena.
The sensational semifinal was interrupted for 50 minutes as one of activists glued his bare feet to the concrete floor in the stands.
The ESPN broadcast cut away from the event as the two men and one woman made a stance against the usage of fossil fuels. The three were wearing shirts emblazoned with ‘end fossil fuels’ and the Extinction Rebellion logo.
Two protesters have been arrested after play at the U.S. Open was interrupted on Thursday night when they began shouting and one glued his feet to the ground during a match at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.
Sayak Mukhopadhyay, 50, of White Plains, was charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct after gluing his feet to the concrete floor in the stands. Gregory Schwedock, 35, of Manhattan, who was also escorted out, was charged with criminal trespass.
Both were given tickets to appear in court at a later date.
Two other protesters were given trespassing notices by the U.S. Open, which effectively puts them on notice that they are no longer permitted on the grounds, according to ABC News.
The delay lasted for nearly an hour, however, Gauff would reemerge with the same brand of dominance she brought on the court with her earlier in the evening.
What Gauff also displayed was that she was ready for the moment, the sort of success predicted of her since, at age 15 in 2019, she became the youngest qualifier in Wimbledon history and got to the fourth round there, according to ESPN.
The No. 6-seeded Gauff will meet No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus for the championship Saturday. Sabalenka defeated 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Madison Keys 0-6, 7-6 (1), 7-6 (10-5) in a topsy-turvy second semifinal that finished at nearly 1 a.m.
Coco Gauff is one win away from becoming a Grand Slam champion.
“I really believe that now I have the maturity and ability to do it,” said Gauff, who came close to a major trophy at last year’s French Open but lost the title match. “You know, regardless of what happens on Saturday, I’m really proud of how I have been handling the last few weeks.”
Sabalenka won the Australian Open in January, is 23-2 in Grand Slam matches this season and is guaranteed to move up to No. 1 in the rankings for the first time next week.
Operating on a mentally and physically higher level, Gauff smacked a forehand winner to cap a 40-swing point that was the longest of the contest.
Arthur Ashe Stadium was in love with the Coco
Coco was supported throughout the night by thousands of deafening NYC tennis heads in attendance, lifting her spirits throughout Friday Eve’s ups and downs.
“I knew I had the legs and the lungs to outlast her in the rally; it was whether I had the mentality and patience to do it,” Gauff said. “After 10 or 15 shots in, I was, like, ‘Well, this is going to change the match.'”
On the next point, Muchova missed a backhand, and it was over. Gauff pumped her fists, waved to the fans and put a finger to her ear, as if to say she wanted to hear even more support.
Coco Gauff is the first American teenager to make it to the title match in New York since Serena Williams, one of her idols, then quoted another, the late NBA star Kobe Bryant, by telling the fans: “Job’s not done.”
The streak includes the two biggest titles of Gauff’s career — and now she needs one more win to get an even more important championship.
“After Wimbledon, I wasn’t expecting to do well, honestly, in this hard-court season,” Gauff said, “so I’m really proud of the way I have been able to turn this season around for me.”
“I’m having way more fun now,” Gauff said Thursday.