In the opening set of her third-round match against Elise Mertens on Friday, Coco Goff was erratic, frustrated and ending early, nothing like it was at the US Open earlier this week.
Mertens, a 27-year-old from Belgium, was playing loose and aggressive, while 19-year-old American superstar Goff made error after error with every stroke. Goff, usually precocious and calm, showed frustration throughout the early part of the match, shouting uncharacteristically after a double fault in the first set, which Mertens won 6-3.
It was suddenly easy to imagine Goff’s run at the US Open ending on this chilly New York evening.
Instead, Goff turned it on and turned Mertens’ emotional catalog. She won the second set 6-3 with little shock, and it was clear how badly Goff wanted to win the third game as she used her incredible foot speed to track down every ball, leaving Mertens open for errors. Gough won the third set 6-0.
“Today’s energy definitely helped me, I felt you, I was playing every point hard,” Goff said in his on-court interview. “When you lose the first set, you know you have to show that you left that energy in the first set and you’re ready to play.”
“Three setters show everybody else that I’m not going down without a fight,” Goff said.
The opening night event at Arthur Ashe Stadium drew a packed house that included pop star Justin Bieber and his wife, model and influencer Hailey Bieber, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and actress Katie Holmes.
The crowd has thinned out since the night opening service for coffee. “Let’s go Coco” and “Finish her Coco” chants all over the stadium. Although the second set was slow going, the crowd jumped to its feet with every positive turn from Goff and the fans cheered each other up.
Friday Marked for the third time The two faced each other, with Goff winning their last meeting in straight sets at the 2022 French Open. In an interview before the match, Goff admitted that they won easily in their last meeting and did not expect to win so easily this time.
It was almost certain that Mertens would advance to the round of 16 in the first set. Then everything turned upside down.
Goff lost the first game of the second set and then fought hard to hold serve after six deuce points. Sixth, she struck a card in the middle and said, “Come!” she shouted. It was his fourth ace of the tournament. As the match wore on, she crushed a dangerous forehand, and when Mertens hit a loopy cross-court backhand, Goff pounced, rushed to the ball, then leaped into the air and crushed it with her forearm.
When he won the second set with a backhand winner, he pumped a fist, extended his arms, and the crowd cheered him on. Mertens looked in disbelief.
Goff started the third set in earnest as Mertens’ game completely fell apart. She netted forehands, hit backhands long and double faulted.
Goff next plays Caroline Wozniacki, who defeated Petra Kvitova in straight sets in her first-round match and Jennifer Brady in three sets after coming from a set down in her second-round match.
Goff said that when Wozniacki retired, she wished she had had the chance to play with him. “That wish came true,” she said. “It’s exciting to play a legend like him, and I’m not going to take that moment for granted.”
Looking like a veteran when he steamrollered Mertens in the third set, Goff was quick to remind us that he is still a teenager.
In an interview at the ESPN desk inside Ashe’s after the match, Goff said he noticed Bieber in the crowd during the second set.
“Yeah, I definitely saw who was there,” she laughed. “I thought I couldn’t lose in front of Justin Bieber. After watching that, I never lost a game. When I first saw him, I got a little tense, and then I remembered that President Obama and Michelle Obama were my first round match.