Coco Gauff reaches US Open final after surviving 50-minute delay due to protesters N42soLenysA

By Simon Briggs, Tennis Correspondent, in New York

Coco Gauff held her nerve to close out a bizarre semi-final that suffered a lengthy delay on account of a climate-change protest in the stands.

Play stopped for 49 minutes while policemen and stadium security dealt with one protestor who had glued his bare feet to the concrete.

But while the fans might have been disgruntled by the hold-up – and the disappointingly slow response by officials – there was also an upside. The incident helped turn what had been a dismal match into something much more entertaining.

Climate-change protesters target last night's semi-final Credit: Will Oliver/Shutterstock

Play had been halted one game into the second set, after a first set that was blighted by an avalanche of unforced errors: Most of them had come from the racket of Gauff’s opponent, Czech No2 Karolina Muchova, who came out on court wearing a sleeve to support a sore right elbow. Happily, though, Muchova used the unscheduled interruption to her advantage.

After Muchova’s coaches had given her a pep-talk during the break, she came back with a much clearer strategy. Having been both passive and erratic, she was now looking to come forward and dictate play with her volleys. It was surely no coincidence that her shot-making improved from the back of the court as well.

Meanwhile Gauff was also showing greater intent to get to the net, perhaps thinking that she needed to get there first in order to take that option away from Muchova. From a shaky start, the match developed into a mighty spectacle. The fans on Arthur Ashe Stadium all but combusted when one rally found both women run back to retrieve lobs before Gauff eventually snatched the point with a scorching forehand pass.

Gauff’s forehand has always had the potential to self-destruct at any moment, and this was the question as we moved into the final stretch. Would her wristy swing – which sees her flick the strings through late, in a motion that requires perfect timing – hold up under pressure? To her credit, she refused to back off on that side, firing a succession of heavy, rearing crosscourt blows that made it difficult for Muchova to advance.

There were some significant mistakes as well. Gauff was broken when she served for the match, and saw five match points come and go before she finally took her opportunity. During that heady sequence, the players fought out an all-court rally which – at 40 shots – was the longest of the tournament in either men’s or women’s draw.

Gauff and Karolina Muchova produced some epic rallies Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

After the match, Gauff admitted that she had anticipated a climate protest over the final stages of this tournament – but had expected that it would come in the final rather than the semi-final.

Yet she stopped short of criticising the protestors. “I think that throughout history moments like this are definitely defining moments,” said the 19-year-old Gauff, who had just become the youngest woman to reach the US Open final since her idol Serena Williams in 1999.

“I definitely believe in climate change. I think there are things we can do better. I know the tournaments are doing things to do better for the environment. Would I prefer it not happening in my match? 100 per cent. I’m not gonna sit here and lie. But I wasn’t pissed at the protesters. I know the stadium was, because it just interrupted entertainment.

“I always speak about preaching about what you feel and what you believe in. It was done in a peaceful way, so I can’t get too mad at it. Obviously I don’t want it to happen when I’m winning 6-4, 1-0, and I wanted the momentum to keep going. But hey, if that’s what they felt they needed to do to get their voices heard, I can’t really get upset at it.”

Gauff reaches US Open final: As it happened

Gauff predicted there would be a protest

Gauff said she anticipated the protest on the morning of her semi-final. 

“The crazy thing is that this morning I told myself: ‘I bet there is going to be a climate change protest in the final’. I didn’t think it would be in the semi-final,” she told ESPN after her match. 

“Immediately when it happened, I told the ref it was a protest. And out of the court I was talking to Karolina and she said: ‘How did you recognise it was a protest so fast?’

“And I said: ‘I don’t know - something this morning told me that it was going to happen this weekend but I thought it was going to be in the final’. And I just treated it like a rain delay. The only thing that was harder was that we had to leave the court. We didn’t know. The security guard said it could be five minutes or it could be an hour so we didn’t know how to warm up and prepare. I didn’t know whether to eat or not. I just treated it like a rain delay to be honest.

“I just felt like something was going to happen this weekend because they did it at the French Open, they did it at Wimbledon. So I was like: ‘Nothing has happened at the US Open yet.’ I was thinking: ‘Well, maybe the trend will continue so that is what I was thinking about.’”

Protester glued his bare feet to the floor

Second semi-final about to start

In the other US Open women’s semi-final, Aryna Sabalenka is about to take on home favourite Madison Keys. 

Follow the latest on that match in our live blog.

Gauff: I don't know if my ears will be OK

“Some of those points, it was so loud, and I don’t know if my ears are going to be OK,” said Gauff, the first American teenager to make it to the final in New York since Serena Williams in 2001.

“I grew up watching this tournament so much, so it means a lot to be in the final. A lot to celebrate,” Gauff said. 

“But the job is not done, so hopefully you can back me on Saturday.”

The winning moment for Gauff

Gauff* 6-4, 7-5 Muchova

Muchova starts the game with a double fault. The partisan crowd cheer her error unkindly.

Muchova backhand pass down the line, Gauff is there and should make the forehand volley but nets, 15-15. Tried to be too precise with that. Huge forehand into the corner from Gauff and Muchova can’t get the ball back in play, 15-30.

Muchova attacks Gauff’s forehand then aims for the backhand and misses. Two more match points for Gauff.

Oh my goodness. Outrageous 85mph running forehand down the line winner from Muchova to save the first match point. 

Gauff gets a short ball after a miscue from Muchova but she suffers a mis-hit of her own and the ball flies wide to her disappointment. 

Muchova backhand into the net after Gauff digs deep and stays in the rally, fourth match point. Muchova goes at Gauff’s forehand and extracts another error to stay alive in this game.

Muchova backhand into the tramlines, match point No 5. Big first serve down the T and Muchova finishes with a drive forehand winner. On we go...

Longest rally of the match, FORTY SHOTS. Both players takes huge strikes but Gauff hits the winner to earn a sixth match point.

Muchova backhand long GAME SET MATCH GAUFF!!!

Gauff 6-4, 6-5 Muchova*

Muchova misses a forehand volley which she had to make and would have put her 30-15. She is in attack mode right now.

But Gauff holds to 15 and is a game away from the final again.

Gauff* 6-4, 5-5 Muchova

Brilliant stretch volley by Muchova, 15-0. Backhand from Gauff flies long, 30-0. Point of the match so far. The crowd rises to their feet. Gauff lobs Muchova. Muchova lobs Gauff, then comes in for a volley but Gauff makes a running forehand pass, 30-15.

Muchova hangs onto serve after Gauff’s forehand is wide. Both players playing some of their best tennis at the moment.

Gauff 6-4, 5-4 Muchova*

Two errors from Muchova to start the game put her on the brink of defeat.

Bad double fault from Gauff, 30-15. The crowd rises to support her. Shot of the match for Muchova as she hammers a forehand winner down the line, 30-30.

Match point Gauff after an audacious drop shot winner. Muchova keeps herself in the match with a volley winner, deuce.

Muchova attacks the Gauff forehand and gets her reward as it breaks down again, break point. Nervy point from both players but Muchova cracks first when she slices a backhand into the net.

Gauff comes forward but Muchova reads it and drills a backhand pass low and Gauff’s volley goes long, second break point.

Wild Gauff forehand goes long and Muchova breaks back to keep her dreams alive.

Gauff* 6-4, 5-3 Muchova

A backhand into the net from Muchova on the opening point. Muchova has an easy overhead smash but puts the ball in the tramlines, 15-30. Is this where Gauff makes her move? 

Muchova goes at Gauff’s forehand and manages to extract the error after a cagey rally, 30-30. Big point coming up...

Longest rally of the match, 21 shots and it’s Gauff who blinks first after pushing a backhand long, 40-30. Muchova double fault, deuce. That was very tight from the Czech.

Muchova serves and volley but doesn’t do enough with her drop and Gauff passes her with a forehand winner, break point.

Muchova backhand into the net and Gauff breaks. She will serve for a place in the final next.

Gauff 6-4, 3-2 Muchova*

As soon as Gauff gets Muchova out of court, the errors come from the Czech. More power in Gauff’s shots at the moment too.

A swinging wide ace from Gauff to hold and move her just two games from the final. Will she make her move in the next game?

Gauff* 6-4, 3-3 Muchova

Muchova eases to 40-0 as she swings freely and with confidence. But once again Gauff pegs her back to 40-30 and refuses to let the Czech hold easily.

But just like in Muchova’s previous service game, Gauff makes a forehand return error to end the game. 

Not much to split these two at this stage of the match.

Gauff 6-4, 3-2 Muchova*

Muchova has definitely come back from the break with the tactic of going at Gauff’s forehand at every opportunity.

First double fault from Gauff makes it 30-30. Big point coming up. Gauff finds her first serve, gets the short ball and finishes with a forehand winner.

And she survives that little scare when Muchova’s forehand flies wide.

Gauff* 6-4, 2-2 Muchova

Break point chance for Gauff after Muchova nets a backhand. 

Great rally. The players go toe-to-toe, Gauff striking her forehand confidently and she approaches the net behind, hits a good volley but Muchova flights a lovely lob over her head to save break point.

And she holds when Gauff’s forehand return goes long.

Gauff 6-4, 2-1 Muchova*

Love hold for Gauff as she finishes the game with a backhand volley winner. Both players look pretty sharp considering what they just experienced.

Gauff* 6-4, 1-1 Muchova (*denotes next server)

After nearly 50 minutes since the last point, Muchova serves to get the match back under way. How will both players react after that very long delay? Who will it help most?

I’m seeing video footage of Muchova receiving treatment on her abdominal area during the break. 

But she appears to be moving well as she gets to 40-0. Gauff keeps herself in the game with a backhand winner down the line, 40-30. But she nets a forehand and Muchova holds.

Latest update from Molly McElwee at the US Open

Throughout the 35 mins the man remained so passive. He had a crowd of 12 NYPD officers here, three of them kneeling in front of him and applying some sort of alcohol to unstick his glued feet from the concrete floor. Also had thousands of New Yorkers shouting abuse at him. 

Questions do have to be asked: how did he manage to smuggle glue onto the grounds in the first place and how did it take so long for security to deal with him? The response was incredibly slow, as the protesters were chanting for at least two minutes before a security guard approached them. In the time it took him to get help, the man had glued himself to the ground. 

Now Coco Gauff and Karolina Muchova need to reset after such a lengthy break and distraction.

Players return to court

More than 45 minutes later Gauff and Muchova return to court and begin warming up.

Statement from the US Open

BREAKING: It's over

The left foot is off

I’m hearing from my colleague Molly McElwee that the police have managed to get one of the protester’s feet loose.

More updates when we get it on this absurd situation.

Members of the New York Police Department step in to help with protesters Credit: Getty Images/Elsa

It appears one of the protesters has glued their feet to the floor.

Embarrassing moment for the tournament

This is incredibly embarrassing for the US Open. Both players are in the warm-up area, taking in fluids and talking to their coaches.

They will have to warm up again once they eventually get on court.

Latest update from Molly McElwee at the US Open

I’m sat on Arthur Ashe about 10 seats away from the protest. It’s now been 20 mins since the protest began and they still haven’t been able to remove one of the men from his seat. NYPD officers are now supporting the security team. 

Such a simple protest, all three just stood up and chanted “end fossil fuels” from their seat. Two were removed by security but this last man is not leaving without a fight. He has removed his shoes. Not clear whether he has attached himself to the chair, but it’s very strange he’s not been manhandled out of here yet.

Gauff: 'Why are you negotiating it's not a hostage'

Latest update from Simon Briggs at the US Open

It took about 20 minutes but finally a very vague update for fans in the stadium. 

“There has been a temporary stop in play” - no kidding - “while we resolve the issue in the crowd. We hope to resume shortly. Thank you for your patience.”

Gauff 6-4, 1-0 Muchova

Play has been stopped for more than 10 minutes now. Gauff takes some advice from her coaches. They advise her to stay on the court and stay warm. 

Muchova decides to leave the court and she’s soon followed by Gauff. A lot of bemused faces on Arthur Ashe.

Gauff 6-4, 1-0 Muchova - PLAY STOPPED

Slight delay at the start of this game due to some noise in the upper tier. The players are forced to wait as security looks to deal with the disturbance. 

The fans are chanting ‘kick them out’. Muchova uses the stoppage in play to get seen by the tournament physio. Looks like she is talking to them about an arm issue. 

Second Set: Gauff 6-4, 1-0 Muchova* (*denotes next server)

The serve is back for Gauff as she earns a couple of cheap points. She does leave her forehand short and Muchova punishes her opponent with a forehand winner, 40-30. 

Backhand long from Muchova and Gauff holds. 

Gauff* 6-4 Muchova

26 errors and seven winners between the two players is the clearest illustration of the match quality as we start the 10th game.

Chance for Gauff here after back-to-back errors from Muchova, 0-30. Deep forehand return by Gauff and Muchova nets a forehand of her own. Three set points.

Gauff gets it done on the first as Muchova tamely nets a backhand. Gauff will be very relieved to take that set given her level in the last 15mins.

Gauff 5-4 Muchova*

The crowd tries to rally Gauff at the start of the game sensing their favourite has lost a bit of momentum. 

Another miscue from the Gauff forehand and the ball flies long, 15-15. Muchova is really targeting the Gauff forehand but a backhand into the net means it’s 15-30.

More aggressive tennis towards the Gauff forehand by Muchova, she moves forward and finishes with a volley winner, 15-40.

Oh dear. Gauff dumps a forehand into the net and Muchova breaks. Somebody file a search warrant for Gauff’s forehand because it’s gone AWOL.

Gauff* 5-3 Muchova

First time Muchova has led in her own service game as she gets to 30-15. Gauff nets a forehand, her eighth unforced error of the match, 40-15. Another miss from the forehand side by Gauff and Muchova holds.

Pressure back on Gauff. Can she rediscover her forehand to take the set?

Gauff 5-2 Muchova*

Stunning point from Gauff, 15-0. She finds the line with a brilliant backhand down the line after being pulled corner to corner by Muchova. She is so confident right now. 

But a couple of errors from Gauff gives Muchova a chance at 15-30. Muchova knifes a sliced backhand down the line and Gauff’s nets a forehand. That was more like it from Muchova.

Gauff backhand into the tramlines and Muchova gets her first break of the match. Game on?

Gauff* 5-1 Muchova

Muchova is trying to slow Gauff down with her sliced backhand but the American’s power is rushing her. Muchova tries a drop shot but nets, 0-30.

Gauff slices a forehand down the line and Muchova hits a backhand into the net, two break points. Another forehand error by Muchova and Gauff breaks again.

24 minutes gone and Gauff is serving for the set.

Gauff 4-1 Muchova*

Muchova fails to put two second serve returns into play, 30-0. She has to do better than that if she wants to win this match. A forehand-to-forehand exchange sees Gauff come out on top when Muchova nets.

Nice mix up from Gauff as she hits a delicate drop shot that Muchova reaches but she can’t get the ball back over the net.

Coco Gauff returns a shot against Karolina Muchova Credit: Getty Images/Clive Brunskill

Gauff* 3-1 Muchova

Must win game for Muchova to get a foothold in the match but she starts it by hitting a forehand into the tramlines. One winner to seven unforced errors in the match for Muchova as she gets to 40-30.

But a second serve ace down the T gives her the game and earns her a very muted applause from the partisan crowd.

Gauff 3-0 Muchova*

The ball striking from both players is very good. Muchova adding variety with her backhand slice and willingness to get into the net.

Gauff’s forehand has been a weakness for her in the past but at the moment it’s dealing well with the pressure. 

Gauff holds to 30 to consolidate the break.

Gauff* 2-0 Muchova

Muchova tries to serve and volley but Gauff is onto it with her forehand return and Muchova’s half volley flies wide, 15-30.

Gauff is alert to everything early on, looking calm and composed. Muchova comes into the net again and Gauff lifts a delicate lob over her head for a winner, 30-40.

Muchova backhand into the net and Gauff breaks. Fine start by the American. Nervy start by the Czech.

First Set: Coco Gauff 1-0 Karolina Muchova* (*denotes next server)

A taste of what’s to come on the opening point as we get a 15-shot rally which ends with a Gauff backhand winner down the line.

No sign of nerves from Gauff as she moves to 40-0 and finishes a very clean start with a forehand passing shot.

Time on court

It’s quite even between them. Gauff has needed nine hours and 19 minutes to reach the semis while Muchova has taken eight hours and 31 minutes.

Here come the players

It’s showtime on Arthur Ashe as the players come out for the semi-final.

Gauff can’t hear the reception from the fans as she is wearing headphones. Total focus for the American.


Classy Muchova

Gauff on taking the pressure off her shoulders

At first I used to think negative things, like, why is there so much pressure, why is this so hard, blah, blah, blah. I realize in a way it’s pressure but it’s not. I mean, there are people struggling to feed their families, people who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from, people who have to pay their bills.

That’s real pressure, that’s real hardship, that’s real life. In a very privileged position, I’m getting paid to do what I love and getting support to do what I love. That’s something that I don’t take for granted.

So really I just put my life into perspective, and especially in New York, I just feel like you see that perspective a lot more especially compared to where I live. I’m just, like, I mean, I have a lucky life, and so I should enjoy it. I know there are millions of people who probably want to be in this position that I am now, so instead of saying why this, why that, I should just be, like, why not me? Why am I not enjoying this? I should.

Yeah, I just told myself, man, I should enjoy this. I’m having so much fun doing it. I should not think about the results and think about this. I’m living a lucky life and I’m so blessed. I don’t want to take it for granted. So that’s the reason why, I think it’s just putting my life in perspective and realizing how grateful and blessed I am.

Can Gauff cope with the pressure tonight? Credit: Shutterstock/Sarah Yenesel

'The conditions this year are really extreme'

By Simon Briggs

The intense heat and humidity at this year’s US Open continued to be a talking point as British junior Hannah Klugman retired from her quarter-final in tears, while former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli suggested that conditions were unsafe.

Klugman, the 14-year-old who is regarded as the most promising junior in Britain, had previously eliminated the No3 seed from the singles event on Wednesday. But her latest match, against 10th seed Laura Samsonova, found her struggling to draw breath in the stifling atmosphere.

Somtimes hunching over at the end of rallies in a desperate attempt to draw air into her lungs, Klugman was unable to land a single game before she abandoned the contest at 6-0, 3-0 down - although it should be said that she was also wearing heavy strapping on her shoulder.

US Open authorities have been monitoring the wet bulb globe temperature at Flushing Meadows. They said that the figure had reached 29.7 degrees, well short of the figure (32.2 degrees) that would have triggered the suspension of junior matches. Information boards on the grounds showed a “real feel” reading of 34 degrees.

Klugman walked off the court after 47 minutes but later also withdrew from her scheduled doubles quarter-final with fellow British prospect Mimi Xu. Meanwhile the French doubles specialist NIcolas Mahut called the doctor to the court after feeling sick and dizzy, later confirming that he had been suffering from heatstroke.

Only a day after singles semi-finalist Daniil Medvedev had said “One player is going to die”, Bartoli questioned whether professional tennis might be heading for a tragic incident.

“The conditions this year are really extreme,” Bartoli told Sky News. “The humidity is so high and you can see all the players struggling so much.

“We have to look at a wider solution in the next five to 10 years. I don’t think it’s safe to send a player out in those conditions. I do agree with Medvedev that we might unfortunately have a huge accident that I think everyone will regret at some point. As much as you can train, the body is not made to sustain that amount of heat for such a long period of time.”

Not long to go now...

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Women's semi-final

Hello and welcome to coverage of the first women’s semi-final between Coco Gauff and Karolina Muchova.

All eyes will be on Gauff as the youngster bids to reach the final of her home grand slam for the first time. By reaching the last four, the 19-year-old became the first teenager to get to the semi-finals in New York since Serena Williams in 2001.

“Oh, it means a lot to me. I mean, being in any sentence with her is great,” she said. “I mean, she’s the greatest player of all time. You know, I’m nothing close to that yet. I’m just really honored to be in the same sentence as her.

“It’s something that I’m used to a lot. So, you know, I’m not going to sit here and be like, Oh, I’m shocked, but I feel like a lot of the stats have aligned with her, and people find new things to think about. I was the first teenager in the quarters and now semis, so I’m guessing if I win they’re going to be, like, finals. It’s just going to keep going.

“Like I said, I never take it for granted. She’s my idol. I think if you told me when I was younger that I would be in these same stat lines as her, I would freak out.

“I’m still trying not to think about it a lot, because I don’t want to get my head big or add pressure, but it is a cool moment to have that stat alongside her.”

Muchova marched in the semis after overwhelming Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 6-0, 6-3 on Tuesday. The Czech, who was a finalist at the French Open this year, was understandably cagey about what her tactics would be against Gauff.

“The key of the match... for sure playing my own game,” she said. “I don’t really want to say all the keys (smiling), I mean, with the tactics. So I’ll just focus on myself, and yeah, try to bring the best out of me to play with her.

“She’s very athletic. She never gives up. Runs for every ball. Doesn’t do many mistakes. So she has kind of all the strokes. So very, very good player from all the aspects.”