Coco Gauff and Venus Williams fell in their first-round doubles match at the French Open on Wednesday.
Playing Ellen Perez and Saisai Zheng, the tournament’s No. 13 seed, in front of a lively crowd on Court 9, the pair won a tiebreak to take the first set but ultimately lost, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3.
The match lasted over two hours, and Gauff and Williams embraced at its conclusion before congratulating their opponents. It was the first match together for the 40-year old Williams and the 17-year old Gauff. They played twice before in singles, with Gauff winning both matches, including during a memorable first-round match at Wimbledon in 2019. Gauff has long praised Williams for being one of her childhood idols.
The duo teamed up following an injury to Gauff’s usual doubles partner Caty McNally sustained during singles qualifying last week. According to Gauff, her father Corey, who is also her coach, reached out to Williams’ team shortly before the entry deadline.
“I wasn’t expecting a yes, to be honest,” said Gauff. “It was worth the ask. I’m happy she said yes.”
Williams said she was excited about the pairing during a news conference on Tuesday.
“She’s so extremely talented that I’ll definitely be expecting her to do all the work,” Williams said.
The fans in attendance chanted “U-S-A” and sang a variety of songs, including “Born in the USA” and “Girl on Fire” to encourage the pair throughout the match.
Williams has won 14 major doubles titles, including two at the French Open, all with sister Serena Williams. The siblings most recently won together at Wimbledon in 2016. Gauff has reached the quarterfinal round twice at Grand Slams during her career, including during the Australian Open earlier this year. Gauff said she was looking forward to playing alongside such an experienced winner in Williams.
“It’s going to be super exciting,” said Gauff on Tuesday. “For me, I love playing doubles and hopefully I can pick up some things from her. She obviously has so many Grand Slams in doubles, and I want to win Grand Slams in singles and doubles.”
Gauff won her first round singles match on Tuesday and faces Qiang Wang on Thursday. Williams lost her singles opener against Ekaterina Alexandrova, 6-3, 6-1.
Perez and Zheng will next play the winners of the match between Gabriela Dabrowski/Leylah Fernandez and Georgina Garcia Perez/Julia Wachaczyk.