NEW YORK (Reuters) – Experience trumped youth as former champion Sloane Stephens’ deadly forehand sealed fellow American Coco Gauff’s fate 6-4 6-2 in the second round of the U.S. Open on Wednesday.
The pair appeared evenly matched early in the affair but the 17-year-old Gauff handed Stephens a critical break with a double fault on the last point in the ninth game and never regained the momentum from her 28-year-old opponent.
In the second set, Gauff failed to convert on the only break point opportunity she had against the 2017 winner, who had eight forehand winners across the one hour and six minute meeting on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“The forehand was key today,” Stephens said after the match. “I wanted to come out here and really execute and play my game.”
Stephens calmly won the last seven points in a row, as she dominated from the baseline and had a two break advantage headed into the final game.
The off-court friends hugged at the net after the match and Stephens heaped praise on the 23rd-ranked Gauff, a fan-favourite at Flushing Meadows who reached the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros earlier this year, the best major performance of her career.
“I love Coco, I think everyone knows I love Coco,” said Stephens. “I’ve seen her game really transition and change… I know there’s going to be great things ahead for her.”
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; editing by Richard Pullin)