Coco Gauff said a surprise meeting with Barack and Michelle Obama helped soothe her frustrations which had ‘bottled’ up during a difficult US Open win over Laura Siegemund.
The Obamas were among the crowd on hand at Arthur Ashe as Gauff battled back from a set down to beat the world No. 121 in round one.
Tensions bubbled throughout the three sets as Gauff, her team, the crowd and eventually the umpire felt Siegemund was taking too long between points.
The German was reprimanded but Gauff still spoke to the officials. ‘She’s never ready when I’m serving. She went over the clock 4 times. You gave her a time violation once. How is this fair?’ she asked the umpire.
Gauff reiterated those frustrations in her on-court interview but by her post-match press conference, the 19-year-old had calmed down thanks to a chat with the former President and First Lady.
Barack and Michelle Obama share a laugh during Coco Gauff’s first-round win on Monday
Gauff delivered a thrilling comeback victory in the opening round of the US Open
‘I actually just met them right before I came in here – so my mood is a little bit nicer. Maybe I’m saying nicer things than I actually planned,’ Gauff said with the smile.
‘That’s brightened my mood so much… I’m going to never forget that moment for the rest of my life. Yeah, I went from being really upset after a win to being really happy. So I’m glad I got to meet them. They gave me some good advice, too.’
Gauff revealed that Michelle was happy to see her fight her corner in the debate over time-wasting.
‘I think she was happy that I spoke up for myself today,’ the teenager said.
‘I wasn’t sure they were here or not. I saw the Secret Service. I didn’t know if it was Mr. (Joe) Biden and Mrs. (Jill) Biden – I knew it was somebody, then I heard that maybe Mr. (Bill) Clinton was coming. I didn’t know who exactly it was until after the match.’
Gauff kept an eye on the presidential box but didn’t spot the Obamas.
‘I guess they weren’t in my eyeline. But afterwards, they told me they wanted to say hi,’ she continued.
‘I’ve met Mrs. Obama before. They told me it was just her initially. Then Mr. Obama was there in the room, too. I was like: ‘Oh my God!’ I haven’t soaked it in because I literally just walked in here.’
Next it was Gauff’s turn to argue with the chair umpire during Monday’s match in Flushing
Gauff moves into round two, where she will face fellow teenager Mirra Andreeva, who is just 16.
‘Today was truly winning ugly,’ she said.
‘My team told me I should have spoken up earlier,’ Gauff added on Siegemund.
‘I really don’t like confrontation all that much. I was thinking about it the whole match. I wasn’t sure if I was in the right or not until it happened multiple times… I wanted to express my frustration, but also being censored. I didn’t want any bombs to fly or anything.’
But Gauff believes the frustration ultimately worked to her advantage. ‘I think today it really helped… the frustration was bottling, to be honest. If I could do it all over again, I would have said something earlier,’ she said.
‘I actually watched the video back when I was taking the ice bath. I wanted to be sure before I came in here. Sometimes you have these emotions, you forget what you said. I would still say everything I said in that moment again.’
Gauff added: ‘I know you do one wrong move, people are going to call you all types of names and tear you down.
Today I think it was important to show you can do all this, still stick to your ground, and people are going to respect you. I think as long as you approach a person with respect, then everything should be fine.’
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