MELBOURNE, Australia — Everyone had the same question before the Australian Open draw was revealed: What were the odds that Coco Gauff and Venus Williams would face each other again in the first round at a Grand Slam tournament?
“I was a bit shocked,” Gauff said. “I’m sure everyone was a bit shocked.”
Gauff, 15, played Williams, 39, to begin her first appearance in the main draw at Melbourne Park, as she did at Wimbledon last year. Just like at the All England Club, the youngest woman in the field got the better of the oldest woman in the field, with Gauff beating Williams 7-6 (5), 6-3 on Monday.
“That was really difficult. She played really well,” Gauff said. “I was really nervous.”
It was the most anticipated match of Day 1 at the first major tennis tournament of the year, and it did not disappoint. The first set, in particular, was intriguing, with Gauff repeatedly pulling ahead, only to have Williams — who won four of her seven Grand Slam singles trophies before Gauff was born — rebuff her.
Air quality ‘totally fine’ on Day 1 in Melbourne
It wasn’t until her fourth set point that Gauff finally took the set, and she then grabbed a 3-0 lead in the second and never let that edge go.
“I definitely was more confident this time. I think I was used to playing on big courts, so the crowd — I guess the size of the crowd didn’t startle me as much as last time,” Gauff said. “Definitely a bit more positive coming into this match.”
Gauff has already demonstrated all sorts of terrific qualities on the tennis court, from her big, gutsy serves to her ability to track down opponents’ shots. We can now add stick-to-it-iveness to the list.
The match was held in Margaret Court Arena, one of three stadiums in Melbourne with a retractable roof, and that was a good thing. For all of the concern entering the tournament about air quality because of wildfires burning in parts of the country, the big issue Monday was a heavy storm that arrived in the afternoon and suspended play on outside courts for hours.