Tennis and TV star Coco Gauff overcomes some drama to win opening match at Miami Open
On Monday night, sixth-ranked Coco Gauff made her television acting debut on “All American: Homecoming,” a sports drama on The CW Network that centers on the tennis and baseball programs at a fictional Historically Black College.
Gauff stood up for the women’s team after the players’ bus was delayed by white policemen long enough to have to forfeit their match in what was categorized as racial profiling.
Just like her strokes, Gauff delivered her lines smoothly and powerfully in defense of the tennis team.
The Delray Beach teen faced some drama in her opening match Thursday afternoon, but prevailed 6-4, 6-3 over 83rd-ranked Canadian Rebecca Marino to reach the third round of the Miami Open Masters 1000 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
“It was a shaky performance,’’ said Gauff, referring to her match and not her acting stint, which she rated 2 out of 10. “She’s not an easy player. I played her at the French Open last year and she doesn’t give you a lot of rhythm. I knew it wouldn’t be a straightforward match even if I was up a break. … I knew if I stayed steady and hit my targets it would be fine.”
The seeded men don’t begin play until Friday afternoon, when world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, the defending Miami champion and recent Indian Wells Masters 1000 champion from Spain, will play 100th-ranked Argentine Facundo Bagnis on the third match on Stadium Court.
Gauff, who holds the record for most match wins (34) in WTA 1000 events before turning 20, continues to struggle with her forehand, but was able to break Marino’s serve five times. Gauff came back from a break down twice in the second set and ended the match with three consecutive service winners.
Gauff, who despite turning 19 earlier this month, has been outspoken about several social issues, such as racial injustice, gun violence and mental health.
“Watching myself on TV was the most excruciating pain I ever had. I hated it,’’ she laughed. “We were there [taping] from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and I didn’t realize how many times we’d have to do each scene over and over. They wrote me in a non-tennis way, and the script completely is how I am off the court, so that’s why I was willing to do it.”
Her opponent was no stranger to mental health issues. Marino, 32, reached a career-high 38th in 2011 but was a victim of cyber bullying and left the tour from 2013 to 2017 to coach tennis. She returned in 2018 but has yet to defeat a top-10 player.
Gauff said she loves this event located about 35 miles from her hometown because of the overwhelming crowd support, that included Heat forward Jimmy Butler from his courtside plush leather chair.
“[Butler] didn’t give me a discount on his coffee,’’ chuckled Gauff, a huge Heat fan. “I wanted to ask him why he unbraided his hair during a game. … I love it here, it’s so relaxed, my brothers are playing soccer and spike ball. We have a suite, so I bring the X-box up there. I’m treating this stadium like my house. I took a nap before my match. If they let me, I would just sleep here.”
Gauff, sporting a radiant orange New Balance shirt, said despite her steady rise up the rankings since playing here at 16, she’s not satisfied with just two titles and a career-best Grand Slam final berth in last year’s French Open.
“Anyone who knows me know I always want more,’’ Gauff said. “I’m not satisfied so sometimes I don’t look at it as a great achievement.”
Prior to Gauff’s match, her doubles partner, Jessica Pegula, seeded third, cruised into the third round with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over 172nd-ranked Canadian qualifier Katerine Sebov.
She had her own celebrity fans as Bills tackle Dion Dawkins and cornerback Kaiir Elam rooted her on.
Pegula, 29, has attended several Dolphins-Bills games in this stadium but sat in the visiting team owner’s box with her father, Terry, owner of the Bills and Buffalo Sabres.
“Once I got my serve going, I was getting a lot of free points,’’ said Pegula, a Buffalo transplant living in Boca Raton, who won eight of the last nine games. “I felt I could break her serve every time.”
She’s known for her trademark consistency as evident from her tour-leading 11 quarterfinal appearances since 2020 and her steady rise in the rankings from 632nd in 2017 to No. 3.
Pegula will next face American Danielle Collins, the Australian Open finalist in 2022 who has dropped from No. 7 to 30 after a variety of injuries and health issues.
In the only upset of the day session, the eighth-seeded Daria Kasatkina of Russia, a Wimbledon semifinalist last year, was dispatched by Belgian Elise Mertens in three sets.
THIS AND THAT
▪ NBA great and longtime Heat employee Bob McAdoo, whose daughter Rasheeda is ranked 772, took in the tennis. Heat guard Duncan Robinson met with 12th seed Frances Tiafoe, and singer Bon Jovi was in the house.
▪ In the continuing saga of the frosty nature between Russian and Ukrainian players, Anastasia Potapova of Russia (Gauff’s next opponent), defeated Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, 6-1, 6-3, and the two didn’t shake hands or look at each other after the match.
▪ Late Wednesday, huge-serving John Isner, 37 was ousted in two tiebreakers to unheralded Mexican American Emilio Nava, who is ranked 182nd and had gone 0-5 in ATP Tour matches this year. Isner, the 2018 Miami Open champion and defending doubles champion with Hubert Hurkacz, then withdrew with a foot injury.