- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The packed crowd surrounding the John A. Harris Court let out a small groan as the final point was scored. Then came the standing ovation for the losing player. Still, this was not the result the home crowd had wanted, or expected, for Coco Gauff.

Gauff lost to Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 6-4, 6-2 Tuesday in the first round of the Citi Open in the District, her first main-draw singles match since her storybook Wimbledon run.

After dropping the back-and-forth first set, there was still room for Gauff to turn the match around. Midway through the second, she sprung out to a 40-15 lead to move a point away from tying the game 3-3.

But Diyas scored four consecutive points to storm back and win, with Gauff double-faulting to give Diyas the winning point. The teen phenom did not win another game the rest of the afternoon.

Gauff recorded five aces — but also committed five double faults.

In terms of WTA ranking, the result was no upset: Diyas is No. 84 in the world, Gauff No. 146. But after Gauff rose to tennis stardom at Wimbledon, the first-round loss still felt shocking. The 15-year-old was the youngest qualifier in Wimbledon history and was a No. 1 junior.

Gauff had to win two qualifying matches on the weekend to reach the Citi Open main draw.

But Tuesday’s loss doesn’t mark the end of Gauff’s time in the District. Gauff is also competing in doubles with Caty McNally. The teenage American duo won their opening match Monday and are expected to play their quarterfinal match Wednesday.

Gauff’s defeat was not the biggest stunner of the day at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center. No. 1 seed Sloane Stephens lost 6-2, 7-5 to Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson in their first-round match.

Later in the evening, No. 2 seed Madison Keys lost to 17-year-old Hailey Baptiste, 7-6, 6-2. Baptiste is a native of the District and trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, like Frances Tiafoe did.

After losing the first set, Stephens took an early 2-0 lead in the second. Peterson tightened it to 5-5, then took it the rest of the way.

“I thought I could have played better,” Stephens said. “Obviously it was hot, tough conditions but from here the only thing you can do is improve.”

Stephens, who has six singles titles to her name, was the highest-ranking American female tennis star playing in the Citi Open at No. 8 in the world. Compare that to Stockholm native Peterson, who lands at No. 70.

But upsets like this one aren’t completely unheard of for the 26-year-old American tennis player. She lost to No. 83 Jelena Ostapenko at the Eastbourne International last month, and she was upset by No. 14 Johanna Konta at the third round of Wimbledon.

Both of these losses were on grass courts, but the conditions of Tuesday’s match were different.

“It was really hot. It was brutal out. You had to get the hard court season started,” Stephens said. “Here’s a little bit tough because the weather’s a bit challenging but it’ll be like this through obviously the rest of the series. I just got to get used to it.”

• Rina Torchinsky can be reached at rtorchinsky@washingtontimes.com.

• Adam Zielonka can be reached at azielonka@washingtontimes.com.

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