Coco Gauff hopes tennis will follow basketball in male vs. female duels

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

American tennis star Coco Gauff says she hopes tennis can follow the NBA in more male vs. female challenges.
American tennis star Coco Gauff says she hopes tennis can follow the NBA in more male vs. female challenges.  © REUTERS

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.

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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."

Coco Gauff celebrates Sabrina Ionescu and Steph Curry

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu after the Stephen vs Sebrina three-point challenge during NBA All Star Saturday Night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu after the Stephen vs Sebrina three-point challenge during NBA All Star Saturday Night at Lucas Oil Stadium.  © USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Connect

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," she added.

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 number three 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 semi-finals 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.

Cover photo: Collage: REUTERS & USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Connect

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