Gauff, Shelton Lead Strong Florida Performance at US Open
Sep 11, 2023
While watching Coco Gauff and Ben Shelton win their opening day matches at Arthur Ashe Stadium and Court 10, respectively, it was easy to envision Gauff advancing deep into the U.S. Open women's singles draw.
But unseeded Shelton? Maybe two rounds, but all the way to the semifinals?
Above: Ben Shelton tears into an overhead smash. Photo by Todd Pechter for Florida Tennis.
It turned out to be a banner year for Florida-based players, especially Gauff and Shelton. Gauff, 19, who grew up in Delray Beach, won her first Grand Slam title by defeating the new No. 1-ranked player, Aryna Sabalenka, in the final 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Saturday. That produced a $3 million payday and sent fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium into a frenzy.
Ashe surely would have been pleased that Gauff became the first African-American to win a U.S. Open singles title since Florida native Sloane Stephens in 2017.
Above: Coco Gauff gets fired up. Photo by Todd Pechter for Florida Tennis.
Shelton, who helped the Florida Gators win the NCAA team championship in 2021 and won the NCAA singles title in 2022, at age 20 became the youngest American quarterfinalist at Flushing Meadows since Andy Roddick in 2002. He ousted 14th seed Tommy Paul and 10th seed Frances Tiafoe, both in four sets, en route to the semifinals.
Then Novak Djokovic halted the streak with a three-sets victory and followed that by defeating Danil Medvedev in three sets in the final to win his fourth US Open championship and 24th Grand Slam title.
For awhile it looked as if there could be an all-Florida women's final. Madison Keys of Orlando, a 2017 U.S. Open finalist, ousted third seed Jessica Pegula of Boca Raton in the fourth round, then defeated ninth seed Marketa Vondrousova. But Sabalenkka halted her run in the semifinals by winning a winning two tiebreakers after losing the first set 6-0.
Sonia Kenin of Pembroke Pines beat Ana Bogdan, who was ranked 40 spots ahead of her, but lost to 13th seed Daria Kasatkina. Danielle Collins of Sarasota also reached the second round, losing to Elise Mertens.
Above: Sofia Kenin tees off on a forehand. Photo by Todd Pechter for Florida Tennis.
Stephens lost in the first round to Beatriz Haddad Maia in three sets.
And Sachia Vickery of Miramar, ranked No. 204, became one of the surprise players of the tournament as she won three qualifying rounds and knocked off No. 21 Donna Vekic before losing in the second round.
Paul, of Boca Raton, showed grit and poise in beating Roman Safiullan in five sets after dropping the first two in the second round.
Above: Tommy Paul showcased his exceptional quickness. Photo by Todd Pechter for Florida Tennis.
Michael Mmoh, a Bradenton resident, jolted 11th seed Karen Kachonov in four sets in the first round. Then in a five-set match that lasted nearly four hours, he defeated veteran John Isner, who trains frequently at Saddlebrook Resort north of Tampa but lives in Texas. It was the final match of a 17-year pro career for Isner, who announced before the U.S. Open this would be his last tournament.
Sebastian Korda of Bradenton lost in five sets in the first round to Marton Fucsovics.
Gauff earned another milestone in women's doubles when she and Pegula became co-No. 1 in the rankings. It's the first time since 2019 there have been co-No. 1 players, and it hasn't happened among U.S. players since Linzel Huber and Florida's Lisa Raymond in 2012. Gauff and Pegula, the third seeds, advanced to the semifinals and lost to Hsiah Su-Wei and Wang Xinyu.
Above: Florida Tennis contributor Dave "Koz" Kozlowski looks back at Coco Gauff's journey from Little Mo to US Open champion (Source: Koz Kozlowski)
In men's doubles, second seeds Austin Krajicek of Tampa and Croatia's Ivan Dodig reached the semifinals and lost to eventual champions Rajiv Ralm and Joe Salisburg. Krajicek is the top-ranked men's doubles player.
And in mixed doubles, Krajicek teamed with Pegula and defeated Shelton and Taylor Townsend in the semifinals but dropped the final to Anna Danilino and Havri Heliovaara.