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Meeting Barack and Michelle Obama makes Coco Gauff’s night at the US Open
A frustrating night for the American teenager ended in the best possible way as the No. 5 seed came face-to-face with the former President and First Lady on a night celebrating 50 years of equal prize money in Flushing Meadows.
Published Aug 29, 2023
WATCH: Gauff arrives at the US Open after a phenomenal summer that culminated with a victory at the Western & Southern Open.
NEW YORK—Coco Gauff was already in the middle of a night she wouldn’t soon forget when she came face-to-face with former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama at the US Open.
The No. 5 seed had just battled through a frustrating first round against Laura Siegemund when she got to meet the former President and First Lady just minutes before her post-match press conference.
“So, my mood is a little bit nicer,” joked Gauff after the 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 comeback. “Maybe I'm saying nicer things than I actually planned on! That lightened my mood. I literally texted, I was like, ‘That's brightened my mood so much.’”
The former President and First Lady came to Arthur Ashe Stadium to help celebrate 50 years of equal prize money at the US Open, the first Grand Slam tournament to achieve that milestone. Still, in the heat of her match, Gauff couldn’t be certain exactly which celebrities were at her match on Monday night.
“I saw the Secret Service. I didn't know if it was Mr. Biden and Mrs. Biden. I knew it was somebody. Then I heard that maybe Mr. Clinton was coming. I didn't know who exactly it was. So I didn't know until after the match.
“I didn't see them in the presidential box. I was obviously looking at that, but they weren't I guess in my eyeline. But afterwards, yeah, they told me they wanted to say hi. I've met Mrs. Obama before. They told me it was just her initially. Then Mr. Obama was there in the room, too. I was like, ‘Oh, my God!’
“I haven't soaked it in because I literally just walked in here. I think I'm going to never forget that moment for the rest of my life. Yeah, I went from being really upset after a win to, like, being really happy. So, I'm glad I got to meet them.”
The emotional night saw Gauff register complaints with umpire Marijana Veljovic who, by the American’s estimation, was negligent in issuing time violations to Siegemund. Siegemund was taking the full length of the time allotted between points—and then some—before a time violation was issued late in the match.
Gauff revealed the Obamas praised her for standing up for herself after the match.
“They gave me some good advice, too. They just told me how I handle myself in these situations. She said it's good to speak up for myself. I think she was happy that I spoke up for myself today!”
Not known for complaining to umpires, Gauff felt this could be a turning point in helping to manage her emotions in a difficult match while sending a message to opponents not to try the same tactics.
“I really don't like confrontation all that much,” said Gauff. “I was thinking about it the whole match. I wasn't sure if I was in the right or not until it, like, happened multiple times. Then I was like, ‘Okay, I know I'm in the right.’
“I think it just reached a point where I was just really frustrated. For me, I try my best not to let my emotions to take over myself. I wanted to express my frustration, but also being censored. I didn't want any bombs to fly or anything. I was trying to best communicate how I was feeling to the referee.
“I'm not going to complain if it's once or twice,” she added. “It was at least seven times that I counted. “Yeah, I'm usually not a player to confront, confrontations with refs and everything. I tried to explain that to her. I'm not a fast-paced player, I'm not Nick [Kyrgios]. I bounce the ball six times before I serve. I ask for three or four balls and I throw it back to the ball kids because I like to get the newest balls. I know how much time I'm taking and it's a normal amount of time.”
Buoyed by the uplifting end to her night, Gauff will next face fellow teenager Mirra Andreeva for a spot in the third round.