Gough repels Montgomery in a teenage struggle

In a showdown between 18-year-old Americans at very different stages of their careers, No. 6 seed Coco Gauff beat qualifier Robin Montgomery 6-3, 6-3 in their first round match at the San Diego Open.

“It was the first time I had played a player younger than me in at least seven years,” Gauff exclaimed after the match. “It was definitely a different feeling for me.”

Here are a few points from all the teens’ two-day struggle:

Gauff returns for the tour with self-confidence: World number 8 Gauff was playing her first match since being suspended by Caroline Garcia in the US Open quarter-finals over a month ago. But Gauff wasn’t rusty and displayed her supreme skills while making her debut as a Top 10 player.

Gauff’s serve was on her starting point, with three aces and an extra irreversible serve to help her win 76 percent of first serve points. Gauff also looked as quick as ever, her superb defense widening the pools and forcing the 294th ranked Montgomery in the world to make mistakes.

Gauff’s mentality impressed too, coming back from an early collapse in the first set to win four games in a row and capture the opening match.

Gauff also had to survive a 50-minute rain delay in the second set, followed by an overnight rain delay during the break. But Gauff remained calm and needed less than 20 minutes on Wednesday to seal the victory.

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“I know Robin so well we went on two trips to the USA when we were eight,” said Goff. “Lots of friends since then. She played really well, I was expecting a good level from her… I was very impressed with how well she shot the ball, it was hard for me.

“I told her at the end of the game, maybe next time we play, it’s not in a first-round match, maybe we’ll play in the final.”

Watch Montgomery: In her first match against a top-10 player and only her fifth on the tour, left-footed Montgomery found a host of first-five winners, from masterful shots to powerful backhands down the line, when she broke. 3-2 to take the lead early.

The advantage didn’t materialize as Gauff carved her way into a dominant position, but Montgomery still looked strong in defeat, with the number of winners only three times lower than this year’s Roland Garros final. Four double flaws hampered the Montgomery case down the sprawl.

The match came on the heels of a fantastic weekend for the 2021 US Open Junior Champion, Montgomery. She got a wild card in the playoffs, defeating two top 50 players, Zhang Shuai and Bernarda Pera, in the first 100 wins of her career.

“It was a great experience,” Montgomery said after the match. “I’m really happy that they gave me the opportunity to qualify, and it was really great to play at this level.”

Eyes on the prize: Gave will continue to push forward for the rest of the season, coming very close to qualifying for the WTA Finals in singles (she currently ranks fourth in the race) and doubles (she and Jesica Pegola are fifth in the doubles race). One or both of these qualifications could happen this week if Gauff progresses enough.

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First things first: Grand Slam champion Gave will stare in the round of 16 when she faces Canada’s Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 US Open roster. It will be the first encounter between two players who stormed the scene with huge acclaim as teenagers.

“I suspect [Andreescu] Gauff said: “She is a very aggressive player. We all know she loves to get on the field and shoot early. I think it will be an interesting match.”

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