By John Delong
Coco Gauff danced to the music during changeovers.
Ashleigh Barty hit tweeners.
Both interacted with a sold-out crowd that provided an electric buzz Wednesday night at the Winston-Salem Open..
Yes, the exhibition match between Gauff, the 15-year-old who has taken the tennis world by storm this summer, and Barty, the popular No. 2 player in the world at present, turned out to be everything it was hyped to be … and more.
Gauff wound up winning the exhibition 6-4, 2-6, 10-8 in a super tiebreak, in a match that had both laughter and some seriously good shot-making.
As tournament director Bill Oakes told the ladies after the match, “You made 4,000 really happy people tonight.”
Gauff admitted she had as much fun as the crowd did, in what was the first exhibition of its kind for both players.
“It was super fun,” Gauff said. “It’s different to kinda play in an atmosphere like that and not be in a tournament. It was cool to play with Ash and hopefully we can do it again sometime.”
Barty said: “It was a lot of fun. Coming here this week was the perfect way to prepare (for the US Open) in a relaxing environment and have a little fun. The crowd was truly engaged and it was just the perfect way to get ready for the Open.”
Gauff and Barty both put in strong endorsements for Winston-Salem’s bid to host a WTA event in the future. The WTA is looking for a new city to host a tournament the week before the Open after the tournament in New Haven was sold, and Winston-Salem is one of those interested in acquiring the rights.
“It’s a beautiful place to play tennis, and Im sure that if any other girls got to come here they’d feel the same way,” Barty said. “They’d feel the same hospitality we felt.”
Said Gauff: “I think we should have one (women’ts tournament) here. The facilities are nice and we’re on a college campus. I liked the town. It’s different than any other place and I think a lot of the other girls would feel the same way.”
Gauff reeled off four straight games in the middle of the first set and wound up cruising all the way to 6-4. Barty then won the first three games of the second set and went on to win the set 6-2. Then came the super tiebreak, and Gauff never trailed, leading by as much as 9-6 before winning 10-8.
“It’s been super cool,” Gauff said. “I really like Winston. I thought when I came here I would get a little break from the weather and tonight it was good. But practicing during the day was tough. But I would love to come back.”