Coco Gauff survives Karolina Muchova, 50-minute protest delay to advance to 1st US Open final

Coco Gauff is a US Open finalist. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Coco Gauff is a US Open finalist. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Coco Gauff was delayed in her quest for her first US Open final. But she was not denied.

Gauff swept No. 10 seed Karolina Muchova 6-4, 7-5 on Thursday in a semifinal match that included a 50-minute delay after a protestor glued his feet to the Arthur Ashe Stadium stands. She'll play Saturday for what would be her first Grand Slam championship. At 19 years old, she's the youngest American finalist at the US Open since Serena Williams won her first in 1999. She'll face No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka in Saturday's final.

Gauff takes charge early

On a relatively brisk, 85-degree night at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Gauff, seeded sixth, came out on fire. She broke two of Muchova's first three serves and played with the set on her racket leading 5-1. But Muchova broke back to keep the set alive, then broke Gauff again to cut her deficit to 5-4. Gauff didn't give her a chance to tie.

With Muchova serving, Gauff took a 40-0 lead to set up triple set point. She needed only one, sweeping the final game of the set to take a 1-0 lead.

Protest forces players to take a break

Gauff picked up where she left off in the second set, taking a 1-0 lead. Then chaos ensued. Shouts could be heard from the upper reaches of the 23,000-plus-capacity Arthur Ashe Stadium stands. Demonstrators, who have frequently targeted Grand Slam tennis matches in 2023, prompted what initially appeared to be a brief delay. But when play didn't resume more than 15 minutes later, players left the court for the locker room.

The delay continued for more than 45 minutes — at the time inexplicably — as several police officers conferred around the place of the protest. Photos and reporting from the stands eventually confirmed why. One protestor had glued his feet to the cement stands.

Tournament director Stacey Allaster confirmed the reports in an interview with ESPN prior to the resumption of play.

"Two were removed," Allaster said of the protestors. "... When security got there, they found that one of the protesters had physically glued themselves in their bare feet to the cement floor."

Officials eventually removed the final protestor from the stadium. Play resumed after a 50-minute delay, with Gauff leading the second set 1-0.

Muchova held on her opening serve post-delay. Gauff, likewise, was unfazed, sweeping her first serve after the demonstration. The pair each held serve until Gauff broke Muchova to take a 5-3 lead and serve for the match. But Mochova wasn't done.

Gauff wins hard-fought second set for sweep

Gauff took a 30-0 lead with a chance to serve for the match. But Muchova rallied for the break and scored nine out of 10 points to tie the set 5-5.

The rally would not last. Gauff held on her next serve. Muchova then double-faulted on her next serve, setting up a dramatic final game that saw Gauff maintain her lead and face several chances to break for the match. Finally, after taking advantage for the fifth time on a 40-shot rally, Gauff won on her fifth match point of the set.

Saturday's final will be Gauff's second in a Grand Slam after she advanced to the 2022 French Open final.