Coco Gauff and Aryna Sabalenka in US Open final after wild mid-match drama

Coco Gauff's clash with Karolina Muchova was disrupted by climate protesters, before Aryna Sabalenka overcame Madison Keys.

Coco Gauff will play Aryna Sabalenka in the US Open final after a bizarre protest disrupted her semi-final victory. Pic: Getty
Coco Gauff will play Aryna Sabalenka in the US Open final after a bizarre protest disrupted her semi-final victory. Pic: Getty

Coco Gauff had to overcome Karolina Muchova and a farcical mid-match disruption to advance to the first US Open final of her career on Thursday (local time). The American youngster prevailed 6-4 7-5 in a crazy thriller of a match that included a 50-minute delay due to a climate protest in the stands.

The 19-year-old fan favourite will play Aryna Sabalenka in the final after the Belarusian denied home fans an all-American grand slam decider by ending the run of Madison Keys. The second seed overcame a disastrous opening set to seal a 0-6, 7-6 (7/1), 7-6 (10/5) victory to book her date with Gauff in the final.

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Sabalenka - who is already assured of jumping to World No.1 after the tournament - was all out of sorts in the first set as Keys handed her a rare 'bagel'. Sabalenka regained her composure to take out the second set in a tiebreak, with little separating the pair in the decider as it hurtled towards a super tiebreak.

Sabalenka raised her arms in triumph thinking she'd won the match after taking a 7-3 lead only to be reminded that it was the first to 10 points. Sabalenka eventually booked her spot in the final when Keys sent one of her booming first serves long, prompting the second seed to drop to the court in jubilant relief.

Coco Gauff overcomes mid-match climate protest

The first semi-final was delayed for a prolonged period after three fans staged a protest and one glued their feet to the ground. With Gauff up 1-0 in the second set after winning the first 6-4, play had to be suspended after the protest started.

Three spectators wearing shirts that read 'End Fossil Fuels' started chanting loudly, sparking concerns from fellow fans and capturing the attention of the players. Gauff and Muchova were both unsure how to react as the tournament supervisor came to the court and ushered the players off.

Protesters, pictured here during the US Open semi-final between Coco Gauff and Karolina Muchova.
Protesters disrupt the US Open semi-final between Coco Gauff and Karolina Muchova. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

The match was officially suspended as both players headed back to the locker room, with police forced to intervene and take action. US Open organisers later confirmed that one of the protesters glued their feet to the ground, with police and security struggling to remove him. The protesters were booed and jeered with chants of "kick them out" by other fans in attendance as security staff moved in.

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"This is incredibly embarrassing for the US Open," wrote Uche Amako of the UK Telegraph. "Both players are in the warm-up area, taking in fluids and talking to their coaches. They will have to warm up again once they eventually get on court."

Telegraph correspondent Molly McElwee said: "I’m sat on Arthur Ashe about 10 seats away from the protest. It’s now been 20 minutes since the protest began and they still haven’t been able to remove one of the men from his seat.

"NYPD officers are now supporting the security team. Such a simple protest, all three just stood up and chanted 'end fossil fuels' from their seat.

"Two were removed by security but this last man is not leaving without a fight. He has removed his shoes. Not clear whether he has attached himself to the chair, but it’s very strange he’s not been manhandled out of here yet."

Gauff was unimpressed by the lengthy delay considering it broke all the momentum she'd gained. She could be heard saying: "Why are you negotiating, its not a hostage."

ESPN footage showed Gauff and Muchova trying to stay loose in their respective locker rooms, consulting with coaching staff and staying warm. They eventually came back into court around 50 minutes after the protest first began, leaving viewers infuriated.

Tournament Director Stacey Allaster said: “As we’ve witnessed, we have environmental protesters up in the (grandstand) area. There were three. Two were removed. There’s no doubt in a 24,000 seat stadium, hopefully people don’t get ideas. We know in these events, environmental protestors use the platform. Security will be resuming along with NYPD to see what else we can do to prevent it in the future.”

Unfortunately it's not the first time we've seen protests interrupt major sporting events in recent times. Three people were arrested after disrupting play at Wimbledon in July when they scattered orange confetti and jigsaw pieces over the court. Two men from the "Just Stop Oil" movement also ran onto the field and scattered orange powder before the second Ashes Test between Australia and England at Lord's.

with agencies

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