US Open: Coco Gauff survives early trouble, pace-of-play drama for tense first-round win

Coco Gauff advanced to the second round after a tense first-round match at the US Open. (Robert Prange/Getty Images)
Coco Gauff advanced to the second round after a tense first-round match at the US Open. (Robert Prange/Getty Images)

Coco Gauff was in trouble early at the US Open on Monday.

But the sixth-seeded American rallied for a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 win over Germany's Laura Siegemund that offered some prime-time drama on the first night of US Open play with both players confronting chair umpire Marijana Veljovic.

The match saw Siegemund flirt with time violations multiple times before Veljovic issued a warning in the third set. Siegemund repeatedly struggled to keep pace with Gauff's service game.

Shortly after the warning, Siegemund protested that she wasn't ready when Gauff delivered a serve while leading 3-0 in the third set. The ball sailed by Siegemund before she took her stance, and Gauff wasn't awarded a point. This prompted Gauff to plead her case with Veljovic.

“She's never ready when I'm serving," Gauff said. "She went over to talk like four times. You gave her a time violation once. How is this fair? ...

"I don’t care what she’s doing on her serve. At my serve, she has to be ready.”

The New York crowd cheered Gauff on as she pleaded her case. Play then resumed with Gauff winning the next point when Siegemund hit long on a return. Gauff let out a celebratory scream and appeared to look straight back at Siegemund.

The drama wasn't over. With Gauff serving with a 4-1 lead in the third, Siegemund took a break between points to towel off. Veljovic awarded Gauff a point for a second time violation, prompting protest from Siegemund. The point was awarded on game point and gave Gauff a 5-1 lead in the decisive set.

Siegemund wasn't happy with the decision. She took her turn to protest to Veljovic.

"I'm going in — I don't know how many points, I go one time to the towel," Siegemund said. "One time on her serve. On her service game, I never went to the towel. She's playing extremely fast, almost unreasonably fast, and I'm always there."

The crowd rained down boos as Veljovic explained her decision to Siegemund.

"So I can't go to the towel any more?" Siegemund protested.

While frustrated, Siegemund wasn't yet defeated. She held her next serve then broke Gauff and held on serve again to cut Gauff's third-set edge to 5-4. But Gauff settled in to close the match with a 6-4 win when Siegemund sent a return into the net.

The players then met at the net for a brief handshake. Gauff shook Veljovic's hand. Siegemund did not. Gauff remained on the court for her victorious post-match interview. She was asked to describe what it was like to play a match that was far from easy.

"Slow," Gauff said, before turning away from the camera with a smile to laughs from the crowd.

"It was a tough match," she continued. "I wasn't playing my best tennis. Laura, she's not an easy opponent. She fights to the end, and that's what she did today. I was able to overcome a lot of adversity. I'm happy with how I managed to get through."

Gauff advances to face 16-year-old Russian Mirra Andreeva in the second round.