WASHINGTON, DC, USA - Coco Gauff made a winning return to the WTA on Saturday afternoon.
The 15-year-old defeated former five-time NCAA All-American Maegan Manasse out of the University of California, 6-4, 6-2, in her first match after a stunning run to the second week at Wimbledon.
"It felt great," Gauff told reporters after the match. "I’d never been to this tournament before and I’m really loving it so far. The crowd was amazing, the court was amazing - everything was great.
"Today I learned a lot about how the court plays here. Compared to where I practice at home, the courts are a little bit slower, which is better for me, because I feel like I have so much more time. I’m going to take that into my next match. I also thought I served really well today. I felt good out there.
"Maegan was playing really well, too. Honestly, I was just trying to stay with her. I ended up pulling it out in that last game. We had a couple of tight games here and there - she won some, I won some."
Ranked World No.313 prior to her well-documented Wimbledon exploits, which saw the 15-year-old become the youngest player to qualify for Wimbledon in the Open Era, Gauff ultimately became the last player accepted to the qualifying based on what was her ranking at the entry deadline following a series of withdrawals.
Currently ranked World No.143, however, the teenager is thus the top seed in the qualifying draw at the WTA International event.
"I'm super excited," Gauff said in a press conference, according to the AFP, on Friday, when she also assisted with the main draw ceremony.
"I'm really happy to get back on the court. I wasn't sure I would get to play any matches before the US Open. I'm hoping the preparation will show."
"I feel like I learned a lot from Wimbledon as a player and a person. It meant a lot to me as Coco the person.
"I learned I'm capable of doing things I never thought of and that I have a fighting spirit. It taught me a lot about myself and showed I'll fight no matter what."
The 24-year-old Manasse, ranked World No.338, recovered well in the opening set after being broken in her first service game, and matches Gauff's easy service holds with ones of her own until the set's final game.
In the second set, Gauff did not relinquish the early lead - as she again broke Manasse the first time she served, and sealed the match with another break on her third match point.
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"I wasn’t really thinking too much about ranking or numbers, I was just focused on the game. I didn’t know her ranking. I barely know mine," added Gauff.
"I knew I was the top seed, but other than that I don’t focus on numbers. Whether you’re the lower-ranked person or the higher-ranked person, you still have to win."
Gauff will next face No.8 seed Hiroko Kuwata of Japan, ranked World No.265, who rallied to beat American Maria Sanchez, ranked World No.346, 4-6, 7-5, 6-0.
The winner of that match will advance to the Citi Open main draw, which is headlined by top seed Sloane Stephens, No.2 seed Madison Keys, and No.3 seed Sofia Kenin.
Also winning in the first round of Citi Open qualifying on Saturday were the six other seeded players, including No.2 seed Sachia Vickery, who lost just nine points in a double bagel victory over Great Britain's Naomi Broady; another former NCAA All-American in No.3 seed Francesca Di Lorenzo; and No.5 seed Destanee Aiava of Australia, who came from a set down to beat 14-year-old wildcard Robin Montgomery, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.