WINSTON-SALEM, NC, USA -- Two of women's tennis brightest stars took to the court for an exhibition match just prior to the US Open, the year's final Grand Slam event, as American teenager Coco Gauff edged World No.2 Ashleigh Barty, 6-4, 2-6, [10-8], at the Winston-Salem Open on Wednesday night.
The players split sets before Gauff eked out the match tiebreak after one hour and 13 minutes of play. Barty had five aces and converted all three of her break points, but Gauff responded with three breaks of her own, and was finally just barely the stronger player on returning second serves in the decisive match tiebreak to earn a whisker-thin win.
Both players were in high spirits before and after their exhibition in front of an excited crowd at the ATP Tour event in Winston-Salem, as they got in their final preparations for the US Open main draw, which begins on Monday.
In a jocular press conference prior to the match, Barty tried to explain the rules of cricket to Gauff, with mixed results.
"Effectively, it's..." Barty started, then paused. "Not very similar to baseball."
Afterwards, the two WTA stars complimented each other, as well as the tournament, for the experience.
"Thank you Winston-Salem and Coco Gauff for a great night!! Absolutely incredible crowd," tweeted Barty, who held the World No.1 ranking for seven weeks earlier this summer. "Massive thanks to Bill Oaks and his team for inviting me to be a part of a really special night - I loved every minute[.]"
"Thanks for your wisdom and the experience," Gauff responded to Barty via Twitter. "Great crowds in NC[.]"
Reigning Roland Garros champion Barty, seeded No.2, has an opening-round match against Kazakhstan's Zarina Diyas at the US Open, and could face 2016 champion Angelique Kerber in the fourth round before a possible quarterfinal match with the winner of the blockbuster first-rounder between six-time champion Serena Williams and 2006 champion Maria Sharapova.
15-year-old Gauff, who sensationally reached the fourth round of Wimbledon as a qualifier in her Grand Slam main draw debut, will play fellow teenager Anastasia Potapova in her US Open main draw debut as a wildcard.
Gauff, the youngest player in the Top 200 of the WTA Rankings, could then meet No.29 seed Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round before a potential encounter with World No.1 and defending champion Naomi Osaka in round three.