Coco Gauff’s remarkable journey to her inaugural US Open singles final was marked by a thrilling semifinal clash against Karolina Muchova, marred by an unexpected disruption from climate protesters. Gauff clinched her spot in the final with a hard-fought 6-4, 7-5 victory over Muchova and is now poised to take on second seed Aryna Sabalenka in the championship showdown.
During the Gauff-Muchova match, a group of four protesters, fervently advocating for the end of fossil fuels, abruptly interrupted the proceedings, causing a 49-minute delay. To make matters more dramatic, one of the protesters even affixed himself to the floor of Arthur Ashe Stadium. Amidst growing chants from the crowd demanding their removal, security eventually escorted three of the protesters out. The United States Tennis Association later confirmed that all four protesters were in the custody of the New York Police Department.
COCO GAUFF IS HEADED TO HER FIRST-EVER US OPEN FINAL ⭐
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 8, 2023
Reflecting on the disruption, Gauff commented, “It presented quite a challenge. It wasn’t your typical delay. We had no idea how long it might endure, and discussions with the supervisor and security revealed that it could last anywhere from as short as five minutes to as long as an hour. This uncertainty made it challenging for us to decide whether to stay warmed up or conserve our energy.”
She continued, “Nevertheless, life is unpredictable, and unforeseen events occur. So, I did my utmost to sustain the momentum I had built from winning the first set and the opening game.”
Initially, Muchova had misconstrued the uproar as enthusiastic fans passionately cheering and screaming from the stands.
The situation escalated to the extent that spectators were requested to clear a path for the police, who were greeted with cheers from fans in the vicinity of the disruption.
One of the protesters conveyed their group’s intention to hold the US Open accountable due to its association with large corporations whose policies contribute to global warming.
Coco Gauff says she believes in climate change & can’t be mad at the protesters:
“I believe in climate change. I don’t know exactly what they were protesting.. I 100% believe there are things we could do better. Would I prefer it not happening in my match? 100%. It is what it… pic.twitter.com/86CtDfmDfH
— The Tennis Letter (@TheTennisLetter) September 8, 2023
Gauff shared her perspective, stating, “I always stress the importance of expressing your beliefs and feelings. They executed their protest peacefully, so I can’t harbor too much resentment about it. Naturally, I didn’t wish for it to happen while I was leading 6-4, 1-0, and eager to maintain my momentum. However, if that’s what they believed was necessary to make their voices heard, I can’t truly fault them for it.”
During the break in the match, Gauff took a seat on her sideline bench, nibbling on fruit from a plastic container and fine-tuning her serves with a few practice shots. Meanwhile, Muchova received a brief visit from an athletic trainer during the interruption.
Subsequently, both players made their way towards the locker room as the delay persisted. Gauff settled onto a treadmill, draping a towel over her lap while engaging in a conversation with her team members.
The incident aligns with a recent trend of protests at sporting events, particularly within the realm of tennis, centering on concerns related to fossil fuel usage.
At Wimbledon in July, two matches experienced disruptions when environmental activists emerged from the stands at Court 18 and scattered orange confetti onto the grass.
During a warm-up tournament for the US Open in Washington, D.C. just last month, around a dozen individuals were asked to leave the premises after voicing their chants and displaying signs protesting fossil fuel use.
Reflecting on the situation, Gauff remarked, “I had a feeling that something of this nature might transpire during this tournament. It occurred during the French Open and Wimbledon. So, following this pattern, it seemed likely to happen here as well. I simply hoped it wouldn’t transpire during my match, and to be honest, I thought we had escaped it.”
Coco Gauff will play Aryna Sabalenka on Saturday to decide the 2023 US Open champion 🇺🇸🏆 pic.twitter.com/5LVqeSBRET
— Sky Sports (@SkySports) September 8, 2023
She added, “However, it is what it is. I believe that moments like these become defining moments in history. As I mentioned earlier, I would have preferred it not to have occurred during my match, but I hold no grudge against the protestors. I understand that the stadium was frustrated because it disrupted the entertainment.”
In the other semifinal, Aryna Sabalenka faced Madison Keys, staging a remarkable comeback from a 0-6 first-set deficit to eventually clinch the match with a score of 0-6, 7-6 (7-1), 7-6 (10-5). This victory thwarted the prospect of an all-American final in New York.
Coco Gauff’s path to the final included a pivotal moment when she failed to convert a match point while serving at 5-4. Nonetheless, she demonstrated her resilience and mental fortitude by eventually breaking Karolina Muchova to secure her victory. Gauff’s emotional celebration and her interactions with the home crowd underscored the profound significance of her achievement.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) September 8, 2023
Gauff’s journey to the US Open final is viewed as a momentous step in her budding career. She has been hailed as a potential future major champion since her breakthrough at the age of 15 in 2019. At 19 years old, she stands as the youngest American woman to reach the US Open final since Serena Williams accomplished the feat in 1999. Gauff’s success in the North American hard-court season leading up to the US Open has undoubtedly played a pivotal role in her impressive tournament performance.
Both Gauff, a 19-year-old American, and Muchova, a 27-year-old hailing from the Czech Republic, found themselves in the semifinals of Flushing Meadows for the very first time, marking a significant milestone in their respective careers.