WHAT HAPPENED: Fans suffering from Coco withdrawal–after the 15-year-old phenom lost to Naomi Osaka in singles action–had to wait even longer for their Labor Day fix. Rain delayed the start of the third-round doubles match Gauff and partner Caty McNally, age 17, were scheduled to play on the Grandstand court. They faced the eighth seeded team, Ashleigh Barty and Victoria Azarenka.
Azarenka and Barty, who have teamed up throughout 2019, had a lot riding on the match. Together, they reached the second round of the 2019 Australian Open and the Round of 16 at both the French Open and Wimbledon. Separately, Barty, a former No. 1 singles player, won the women’s doubles title at the 2018 US Open, with CoCo Vandeweghe. Azarenka, another former world No. 1 singles player, has won two Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, at the 2007 US Open with Max Mirnyi and the 2008 French Open with Bob Bryan.
The veteran players' experience showed. Barty and Azarenka dispatched the young Americans in a 21-minute first set with a score of 6-0. While Gauff and McNally can be credited with scooping out some stunning saves, they simply couldn't find a way to win points, let alone games.
The teenagers looked visibly relieved when they broke serve to take a game in the second set to put them on the board, 1-4. But their opponents broke back and closed out the entire match in just 47 minutes, final score, 6-0, 6-1.
WHAT IT MEANS: Simply put, you have to hit winners to win a doubles match. More than half of Barty and Azarenka's shots were winners: of the 51 points they won, 24 of them qualified as winners. By contrast, the teenaged team hit just four winners.
"We're both so still learning. We just need to work and improve," said Gauff at the post-match press conference. And now that her US Open work is done, she's looking forward, like a typical 15-year-old, to seeing "The Lion King" on Broadway.
As for Barty and Azarenka, their job was to ignore the buzz around the young players, who also enjoyed home-court advantage, and play the seasoned doubles that has garnered, between them, a shelf full of trophies and even a mixed-doubles gold medal, won by Azarenka with Mirnyi.
MATCH POINT: Barty and Azarenka will face the No. 1 team, Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic, in the quarterfinals.