Sunday, September 12, 2021

Gauff and McNally Fall in Three Sets in Women's Doubles Final; Deming and An Claim Les Petits As Doubles Title

US Open women's doubles finalists Coco Gauff and Caty McNally
photo credit: Garrett Ellwood/USTA

With the junior singles finals finishing on Saturday (my coverage for the ITF is here) for the first time since I began reporting on the US Open in 2004, Sunday was a bonus day at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for me. I was fortunate to be able to watch Sunday's two matches in Ashe for the first time in many years, and although I was excited to see Novak Djokovic compete for the men's singles grand slam, I was thrilled to see Caty McNally and Coco Gauff play in the women's doubles final in the early match.

Three years ago, I spoke to them after they won the US Open girls title, on a match played at the Chase Center indoor courts, in front of no fans, due to rain. 

Today they played on Arthur Ashe stadium, with a vocal crowd behind them, against Australia's Samantha Stosur and China's Shuai Zhang. Although they lost 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, McNally and Gauff proved they were ready for the sport's biggest stage and intend to make their appearance in slam finals a regular occurrence.

At their press conference in Interview Room 1, the only one I attended in person, rather than via Zoom, because the junior champions did not get that room this year, I asked them to reflect on their progression from girls US Open champions to women's US Open finalists.

"It's been a great journey so far," McNally said. "Winning the juniors, now we're playing on Arthur Ashe Stadium, it's pretty cool to see how far we've come. I think it just shows how much better we've gotten as a team. We want to do better. We can't wait to be back out on that court again. But I think from day one when we played, we just had a special relationship, a special partnership. I think we knew this was coming. I think we knew finals were coming down the road. I still think we'll be back out on that court again with a different result sooner than later."

"Yeah, I agree," Gauff said. "It's amazing how far we've come. I'm glad that Caty is able, we're able to do this journey together. There's no other person or player that I would rather do this with. I know that we'll be Grand Slam champions eventually."

A journalist via Zoom asked if they felt their success this year, and that of Raducanu, Fernandez and Alcaraz could be viewed as "jumping the line by going so deep into a Grand Slam."

McNally dismissed that interpretation.

"Yeah, I don't know if there's like a line. I just think we all believe in ourselves, believe in our games," McNally said. "We've all played at really high levels, especially in juniors. We've all played in Grand Slams, all of us. I think that's given us a lot of exposure to what we're getting ourselves into. I think we're just taking on these big moments head first. We're not really afraid to play our games and get the crowd involved, to win these big matches. I think it's just awesome and inspiring to me, I know to myself, I know to Coco, other young players, that anyone can do it."

"I mean, success has no timeline to it," said Gauff, who at 17 is the youngest of all the teenagers who excelled at this US Open. "It can happen early; it can happen later. There are a lot of players that it happened later in their career, and there's a lot of players it happened earlier in their career. There's players like Serena who have success throughout the whole career (smiling). Like Caty said, I don't think there's any line or anything. I think especially the young generation, the new generation coming up, just really believe in themselves, don't really care about how many more years of experience the opponent on the other side of the court has."

One of the biggest stages preparing junior players for the future is in Tarbes France at the 14U Les Petits As tournament. Usually held at the end of January and beginning of February, the tournament was moved to this week due to the pandemic. I usually follow the event closely, which I was unable to do this year because of the conflict with the US Open Junior Championships.

Five US girls and four US boys were in the draws, with Claire An and Max Exsted the top-seeded Americans, both at No. 8. Exsted lost in the quarterfinals, while unseeded Darwin Blanch and Matisse Farzam both advanced to the semifinals. Blanch lost to No. 3 seed Federico Cina of Italy, who had beaten Exsted, 6-3, 6-2 and Farzam was beaten by top seed Maxim Mrva of the Czech Republic 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Mrva won the title today, beating Cina 6-3, 3-6 6-0. 

Cin and Andrea De Marchi, the No. 6 seeds, won the doubles title, beating No. 7 seed Felix Alopaeus and Oskari Paldanius of Finland 6-7(5), 6-3, 12-10 in the final. 

France ended a long drought in girls singles, with No. 7 seed Mathilde Ngijol Carre becoming the first girl from the host country to win the title since 1984. She defeated unseeded Mika Buchnik of Israel 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 in the championship match.  An, the only US girl to advance past the second round, lost in the semifinals to Buchnik, 7-6(5), 6-3.

An and Emily Deming were unseeded in the girls doubles competition, but they took home the title, defeating Flora Johnson and Hephzibah Oluwadare of Great Britain, who were also unseeded, 6-4, 6-1 in the final.

Riley Crowder and Deming met in the consolation final, with Crowder winning 4-1, 4-1.

Photos from the event can be found at the tournament website. The draws are best viewed at Tennis Europe's website.


Pam Santa Maria said...

That cutting the line question was interesting. Raducanu is a totally different level than McNally. No offense to Caty, but in singles she was never even near the line of great young players that Emma is in. Gauff is of course, but certainly not McNally by any means.