Player's In-Match Interview Catches U.S. Open Peers Off Guard

  • Vandeweghe talked with ESPN after first set of her victory
  • Serena Williams said she's too focused to talk during match

Coco Vandeweghe’s upset win against Sloane Stephens in the first round of the U.S. Open didn’t surprise Serena Williams, but the television interview Vandeweghe conducted during the match caught the three-time defending champion and other players off guard.

Vandeweghe beat the 29th-seeded Stephens 6-4, 6-3 on the first day of play at the National Tennis Center in New York. After winning the first set, Vandeweghe conducted an interview with ESPN, a brief exchange with Pam Shriver that she said she couldn’t remember later.

“I think any innovation, it is a positive. So I see no harm in it,” said Vandeweghe, a 23-year-old American ranked 45th in the world. “I just thought of it as -- being a sports fan myself -- getting insight into an athlete’s head.”

Caroline Wozniacki, the fourth seed in the women’s draw, immediately chimed in on Twitter after seeing the mid-match interview.

“Did I just see Coco do an interview on court, mid match, after the first set??” Wozniacki wrote. “Surely you would wanna focus on the game out there? No?”

Vandeweghe, the niece of NBA head of basketball operations Kiki Vandeweghe, said she brushed off her initial concerns that the interview might cause her to lose concentration. She said ESPN approached her about the idea the previous day and said she could wave Shriver off at any time if she didn’t feel comfortable.

“You know, there’s lots of distractions that go on during a tennis match,” Vandeweghe said. “If you aren’t able to put those distractions aside, then you need to kind of definitely work on that aspect of your game. It felt right, so I did it. Maybe another time I’ll be not feeling it as much and I’ll tell Pam to go sit back down, which might be equally as fun.”

Williams, who is seeking to complete the Grand Slam of all four major titles in 2015, said she found the interview interesting, yet probably wouldn’t do it herself.

“It’s great for some viewers -- get in the mind of the athletes,” Williams said after her first-round win. “But I also think, for me, I’m really focused the whole time. I’m really trying to think about what I want to do. I don’t necessarily want to answer questions about anything. I just want to be in that moment.”

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