While all the attention has been focused on the two teenagers about to contest the US Open singles final, another 17-year old, Coco Gauff, has made it into the doubles final with her 19-year old partner Caty McNally where they will face Aussie veteran Sam Stosur & Zhang Shuai of China on Saturday.
Unfortunately, Gauff & McNally’s passage was marred when one of their opponents, Luisa Stefani from Brazil, landed awkwardly at the net during the first set tiebreak, collapsed to the ground and was unable to continue.
Very little had separated the teams in the first set, with Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski & Stefani coming into the US Open in fine form, having gone 16-2 since pairing up at the start of the summer, including a title in Montreal.
The Americans, however, matched them shot for shot at the net, coming back from a break down to level the match at 3-3.
Gauff & McNally had the first chance to clinch the opener, holding 4 set points on the Dabrowski serve at 5-4, but powerful, aggressive play by the Canadian-Brazilian pair fended them all off.
After a pair of love holds by each team, they moved into the tiebreak, where Dabrowski used a deft lob to force an error, grabbing an early mini-break but, with her team leading 2-0, Stefani turned her leg mid-point at the net and fell to the ground in obvious pain.
The Brazilian attempted to walk, but had to be taken off the court in a wheelchair, and the match came to an unfortunate conclusion.
Stefani, who won a bronze medal for Brazil at the Olympics in July, was consoled by Dabrowski and left the court with her, returning some time later to concede the match.
As a result, Gauff & McNally, the No 11 seeds, advanced into their first Grand Slam final, with the final score over their No 5-seeded opponents Dabrowski & Stefani, 6-6, 2-1 Ret.
Dabrowski was in pursuit of her first Grand Slam women’s doubles title after winning the 2017 French Open mixed doubles championship with Rohan Bopanna, and having claimed the 2018 Australian Open mixed doubles crowd with Mate Pavic.
“I don’t want to win a match like this,” a stunned Gauff said on court. “Luisa’s so nice, and I cannot watch that again, because it’s so hard to see another opponent finish a match like that….I wish her the best wishes and, as an athlete, you know how an injury like that is just heartbreaking and, I think, that we should just all come together and support her.”
McNally added: “Luisa’s such a great doubles player, and as a team they’re very difficult to play.
“I think this match was going to be such a great match, anyone could have taken the first set. I hope that she’s okay and that she’ll recover quick, and it’s never the way you want to win.”
Earlier on Louis Armstrong Stadium, in the first of the two semi-finals in New York on Friday, Stosur & Zhang defeated American Desirae Krawczyk & Alexa Guarachi from Chile, the No 7 seeds, 6-2 7-5, in 72 minutes to reach their second major final as a team.
The No 14 seeds, the 2019 Australian Open champions, are on a big winning streak, having triumphed in their last 10 matches and winning the Cincinnati final over Dabrowski & Stefani.
Stosur & Zhang took control of the first set early, after fantastic forehands by the Aussie steered them to a break of Guarachi’s serve for 3-2.
Two games later, the pair broke Krawczyk for good measure, completing that game with a Stosur backhand return winner, after which Zhang served out the set to love.
The 14th seeds romped to a 5-1, double-break lead in the second, but Guarachi & Krawczyk fought back, breaking Zhang, who was serving for the match, to pull within 5-3.
After a love hold by Guarachi, Stosur served for the match, but slammed down her team’s first double-fault on break point, and the match was tied at 5-5.
A gruelling game later, though, went to Stosur & Zhang, who broke again for 6-5, thanks to an error-forcing crosscourt backhand by Zhang and, serving for the match for a third time, the Chinese made no mistakes this time round, hitting an ace to complete a love hold.
Zhang’s only Grand Slam title came with Stosur two years ago in Melbourne, while Stosur has already won 3 major women’s doubles titles in her career, including a US Open way back in 2005 alongside Lisa Raymond.
A second women’s doubles crown for Stosur at Flushing Meadows would be a fitting way to mark the 10th anniversary of her 2011 singles final triumph over Serena Williams, but there are two teenagers in the wings who will be doing their best to get their names onto the silverware.