So Mirra Andreeva must wait a little longer – to topple Coco Gauff, and to continue her astonishing rise to the very top of tennis.
In time, this second-round defeat should prove only a tiny roadbump for a 16-year-old who has been careering towards the biggest stage ever since her tour debut – less than a year ago.
Here, though, in the blistering heat of her new home, Gauff cemented her place as the dominant teenager in the women’s game. She is still the future. Even if, on Wednesday, the 19-year-old was thrust into an unfamiliar role: elder stateswoman. Over two sets and 75 minutes on Arthur Ashe, the American asserted her dominance and continued her pursuit of a first Grand Slam title.
After Gauff was forced to ‘win ugly’ – her words – in a tetchy opening-night clash with Laura Siegemund, this was more like it. This was a fine battle between two supreme talents, slugging it out from the back of the court.
In the end, Gauff was simply too powerful and too clinical. She crashed home 24 winners (to Andreeva’s seven), she won more than 80 per cent of points on her first serve and more than half of those when receiving – including four of five break points.
Coco Gauff continued her pursuit of a first Grand Slam title with victory over Mirra Andreeva
Russian starlet Andreeva (above) was blown away by her teenage rival at the US Open
Gauff cemented her place as the dominant teenager in the women’s game on Wednesday
Gauff had been at pains, earlier this week, to downplay the importance of age and experience. She insisted that neither worried her against older players and she wasn’t bothered now the shoe was on the other foot. ‘It means nothing,’ the American said.
For her, maybe. But for supporters, this was still a treat. And for the sport, it was a window into the future. On the same day that old foes Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova – both 33 – meet for the 15th (and final?) time, this felt like the second chapter of a rivalry that will shape the next decade.
There is symmetry in their stories and the fortunes of these teenagers have now been entwined in each of the past three majors. Gauff won their only previous meeting – in the third round at Roland Garros – and then, at Wimbledon, Andreeva became the youngest player to reach the fourth round since you know who in 2019.
The Russian had ‘revenge’ on her mind by the time they emerged on to Arthur Ashe. But, like Gauff, the 16-year-old had flirted with a first-round exit – coming from a set and a break down to beat Olivia Gadecki – and it wasn’t long before she was on the back foot once more.
Andreeva broke Gauff in the very first game but the American responded immediately and soon she was playing with authority – punishing the Russian’s serve, pulling her around with a dominant backhand.
Gauff won four straight games to take control of a first set that ended 6-3.
Before long, she was in command of set two, as well. She broke Andreeva’s second service game courtesy of a crushing forehand. She then saved a couple of break points before bringing Arthur Ashe to its feet at the end of a 30-shot tug-or-war.
Gauff eventually triumphed with yet another backhand winner.
Andreeva would not lie down but her resistance was finally broken in the seventh game of set two, when Gauff broke to love to put herself on the brink of round three. The Russian’s time will come . Gauff’s time might be now.