Coco Gauff’s title, Casper Ruud’s first pitch and more from the week in tennis

Entering last week’s Citi Open in Washington D.C., Coco Gauff had never won a title on American soil. Nor, for that matter, had she won a title at anything other than a 250-level event.

And as her last match had been a devastating first-round defeat at Wimbledon and she was playing in her first event with new coaches Pere Riba and Brad Gilbert, the 19-year-old wasn’t exactly the favorite as play got underway.

But none of those details seemed to matter to the world No. 7 as she cruised to the fourth — and biggest — title of her career on Sunday. Gauff was dominant throughout the week as she didn’t drop a set and consistently showed off an improved serve and forehand. In the final she needed just 84 minutes to defeat Maria Sakkari, 6-2, 6-3, for her second title of the year.

After clinching the win, Gauff couldn’t help but twirl and dance in celebration.

After her disappointing finish at the All England Club last month, Gauff seemed relieved to get her season back on track.

“It’s our first tournament as a full team,” Gauff said on court in reference to Riba and Gilbert. “I’m glad that we were able to make this result. Thank you for sticking with me. I know those who were with me at Wimbledon, it was really tough. … I’m glad I was able to bounce back.”

Gauff, who went on to credit her parents for being the reason she plays the sport and for her “good personality,” became the first teenager to win four or more WTA titles since Caroline Wozniacki. She also is now firmly back in the conversation as a legitimate contender for the upcoming US Open.

Following Gauff’s victory, Dan Evans and Tallon Griekspoor squared off in the men’s final with both also looking for the most important title of their careers. The 33-year-old Evans ultimately won, 7-5, 6-3, becoming the oldest champion at the event since 1988 and improving his ranking from No. 30 to No. 21. For his efforts, Evans received a $353,445 paycheck. Despite the tournament giving equal billing to the men and women and being the first-ever joint 500-level event, Gauff earned $120,150.

In a news conference, tournament chair Mark Ein said the event would offer equal pay starting in 2027.

Gauff and Evans’ victories, and their disproportionate prize money, weren’t the only storylines worth knowing about last week. Here’s what else you might have missed:

On paper, Gauff’s Round of 16 match against world No. 204 Hailey Baptiste on Wednesday might not have seemed particularly special, but it was just that for both players.

Baptiste, a Washington D.C. native who had received a last-minute wild card into the qualifying draw, was coming off three straight wins, including an impressive 6-1, 0-6, 6-3 victory in the Round of 32 over former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova. The 22-year-old was determined to make the most of her opportunity at the home event — despite losing her bag and needing to buy all-new gear — and relished the chance to play her longtime friend Gauff for the first time at the WTA level.

Gauff was equally excited. While she ultimately won the match with relative ease, 6-1, 6-4, afterwards she told the crowd just how monumental it had been to share the court with Baptiste.

“It makes me a little bit emotional playing Hailey because growing up, there wasn’t really too many black women in juniors playing, and for us to be both here on tour playing really means a lot,” Gauff said. “Really there was only three or four of us out there and we would all be friends with each other and we had to deal with a lot of crap that you guys don’t know about. For us to be out to be on tour today, it really means a lot.

“It does make me emotional, truly, because it just reminds me of those big dreams we had as kids. I hope that Hailey and I play each other many more times to be that representation. I see a lot of little girls in the stands and I hope that this becomes more and more of a common thing in the sport.”

DMV pride

Evans might have ultimately won the men’s title on Sunday but no one had the crowd going more than Frances Tiafoe. In addition to drawing massive crowds on site, the hometown hero (and basketball superfan) brought out some big names to cheer him on, including Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Daniel Gafford and former MVP Kevin Durant.

Durant, who like Tiafoe is from Maryland, even joined the tennis star during his on-court interview with Rennae Stubbs following his opening-round victory over Aslan Karatsev.

“He’s just bringing, first of all, that energy from this area,” Durant said. “He’s representing right, so we’re all proud of him.”

Tiafoe ultimately lost to Evans, 6-4, 7-5, in the quarterfinals.

Milestone title

Like Gauff and Evans, Stefanos Tsitsipas also had a strong start to his North American hardcourt summer swing. The 24-year-old won his first title in over a year with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Alex de Minaur in the Los Cabos final on Saturday.

And while it was his 10th career ATP title, it was his first on a hardcourt since 2020 and, perhaps even more surprisingly, his first ever on an outdoor hardcourt. His previous four titles on the surface had all come at indoor events.

As he lost just one set en route to securing his new hardware and he improved to the No. 4 ranking following the win, Tsitsipas seemed encouraged by his play at the tournament.

“I will take the positives out of this week,” Tsitsipas said after the final. “I had a few good matches here and I think it’s a good start to the [hardcourt] swing. We’ve experienced a lot of good tennis this week from a lot of good players. The competition was high, and I’m happy to walk away with the trophy.”

Fun fact for everyone not named Alex de Minaur: it was Tsitsipas’ 10th win over his Australian opponent in — wait for it — 10 tries. It’s his best record over any player on tour.

Pitch perfect

Ahead of this week’s Canadian Open, Casper Ruud was given the ceremonial first pitch honors at the Toronto Blue Jays game on Thursday. The world No. 5 has showed off his golf game a lot over the years, but his baseball prowess remained to be seen. In fact, the Norwegian Ruud had never even been to a baseball game before.

However, the 2022 US Open finalist did far better than most with the task and successfully threw the ball to the catcher. And before you make some sort of snarky “Of course he could do it from the clay pitcher’s mound,” please note he actually pitched from in front of the mound on grass. So take that for what you will.

Iga’s stadium?

Now in her 71st week at world No. 1 and having already won four major titles, it doesn’t seem farfetched to think Iga Swiatek will one day have a tennis stadium — or several — named after her. Seeing as she’s just 22, there isn’t one yet. But that didn’t stop her from pretending IGA Stadium, the Centre Court in Montreal for the Canadian Open, was named in her likeness when talking to the media ahead of the event over the weekend.

“Having a stadium named after me, [it’s a] huge privilege,” Swiatek said while laughing. “Let’s pretend that’s the story. It’s just a nice coincidence. It’s fun. I feel more happy when I see that it’s IGA Stadium. It’s nice, they should do this more often.”

Hurricane warning

Another day, another tennis player dominating on the pickleball court. Over the weekend, Hurricane Tyra Black — a five-time ITF singles champion and former top-20 junior player — won her first career gold medal on the PPA Tour. The 22-year-old had an impressive run at the event in Fountain Valley, California, including an upset win over No. 1 ranked Anna Leigh Waters in the quarterfinals that went viral due to Water’s bizarre reaction at the match’s conclusion

Black was clearly thrilled after winning the title on Sunday and even indicated she had left tennis permanently to pursue her pickleball career.

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