Steve Fogleman in Washington
Qualifying has a familiar refrain in tournaments the size of Citi Open in Washington. Qualifying rounds on day one are full of matches, but strangely, it’s also a relaxing day for the press because interviews are sparse and post-match press conferences are almost unheard of. Previous qualifying crowded matches historically followed University of Virginia men or other local institutions like the Junior Tennis Champions Center, but not today. The buzz around Coco Gauff today was almost unprecedented in my coverage as a blogger over nine years, what with a full-blown post-match presser and Big Camera everywhere beaming her throughout the D.C. universe and all over the world.
Attendance at her Stadium affair today against Maegan Manasse was massive, easily the biggest crowd to ever witness a first round WTA qualifying match at Citi Open, and I’ve been every year, including the one in College Park, Maryland while the men were playing the last Legg Mason Tennis Classic here in 2011. The only crowd as big as the one at Gauff’s first match since Wimbledon that was arguably as large was the crowd that cheered on Sloane Stephens in the 2015 Women’s Final. It wasn’t just the numbers, it was the post-match cacophonous scrum of juvenalia acquiring autographs and snapping selfies that was straight out of the US Open–or SW 19. It was Wimbledon on the Potomac today.
It was the reverse of every Sunday finals at the event since the WTA Citi Open in College Park and the Legg Mason Tennis Classic were conjoined by Donald Dell in 2012. It was Bizarro World to show my age. And it was long overdue. Here’s to a repeat tomorrow.
I woke up this morning knowing that everyone else would write about Gauff and I was determined to reflect on everything else going on at the Citi Open, and I tried. Francesca DiLorenzo and Victoria Duval played a very close match with DiLo prevailing 6-4, 6-3. Fanny Stollar and Xioadi You fought a brutal three-setter and the heat clearly took a toll on both of them but the look in the eyes of the eyes of the diminutive You said everything. You see those qualifying eyes when a competitor loses and knows they could’ve won if they hadn’t run out of gas first. It’s a marathon for players, tourney staff, fans and bloggers alike and that’s all we need to remember after this fabulous first day of a nine day hike in Rock Creek Park. And the name Coco Gauff.