Gauff keen for tennis to follow basketball in male v female duels

tennis19 February 2024 12:50
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Coco Gauff @ Getty Images

US Open champion Coco Gauff said on Monday tennis can follow basketball's example and have men facing women in specialised contests such as Serena Williams and Australian Nick Kyrgios in serve targets.

Gauff was speaking after Stephen Curry sank his last four shots from the right corner to defeat Sabrina Ionescu 29-26 in a 3-point NBA-Women's NBA Challenge on Saturday at NBA All-Star weekend.

The first-ever shootout of the sexes was a groundbreaking showdown between elite guards – Golden State's Curry, the NBA's all-time 3-point basket leader, and WNBA single-season 3-point record holder Ionescu of the New York Liberty.

Both players shot from the NBA three-point line, which is farther away from the basket than the WNBA three-point line.

Speaking to reporters in Dubai, where she is competing in the WTA tournament, Gauff was asked what skills challenge, akin to the ones featured at the weekend, would work in tennis.

The 19-year-old American said she would love to see Serena Williams and Nick Kyrgios go toe-to-toe in a serve targets contest.

"There's also like the dropshot one," she said.

"Ons (Jabeur) and Carlos (Alcaraz) would be a cool matchup against that. There could be maybe a consistency challenge."

Gauff hailed Ionescu's efforts against Curry.

"I think the Sabrina and Steph competition was great," said Gauff.

"I think most people were rooting for Sabrina. What she did was incredible, especially also shooting from the NBA line.

"Steph is definitely the greatest three-point shooter ever."

Gauff said she would hope the man against woman shootout is not a one-off.

"I just hope they continue to do this," she said.

"It just humbles a lot of men in the world. I really like that.

"Especially basketball, that type of competition, it's something physicality doesn't always matter.

"I think that's what makes it cool."

Gauff is seeded No 3 this week and will open her campaign against Italian lucky loser Elisabetta Cocciaretto on Tuesday.

The American is coming off an early exit in Doha.

She will be looking to recapture the form that saw her start the season with a title in Auckland and reach the Australian Open semifinals where she lost to eventual champion Aryna Sabalenka.

"It was just a bad day at the office," Gauff said of her performance in Qatar.

"I'm not going to let it define how the rest of this week will go."

Two former world No 1s booked their spots in the Dubai second round on Monday.

Victoria Azarenka eased past Arantxa Rus 6-2, 6-4 and Karolina Pliskova improved her record against Chinese wildcard Zhang Shuai to a perfect 9-0 with a 6-3, 7-5 victory.