The athlete, 19, spoke candidly about her interaction with the famous couple during a press conference on 28 August, after her win against Laura Siegemund in the first round of this year’s tennis tournament. She recalled that, prior to the interview, she’d “just met” Michelle and Barack, who had attended her match.
After confessing that meeting the pair had “lightened [her] mood so much,” she also noted that she didn’t initially expect Michelle and Barack to be in the tennis stadium on Monday. She said that when she first saw the secret service, she thought it was because President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, or former President Bill Clinton was there.
“I didn’t know until after the match, I didn’t see them in the presidential box,” she said about the Obamas. “I was obviously looking at that, but they weren’t, I guess, in my eyeline.”
She added that, after the match, she was told that Michelle - who Gauff said she’d met before - wanted to greet her. Although the tennis player said she was initially told that just Michelle was coming, Barack was there as well, prompting excitement from Gauff.
“I was like, ‘Oh, my God,’” she recalled. “I haven’t soaked it in because I literally just walked in here. I think I’m going to never forget that moment for the rest of my life.”
Gauff went on to emphasise how her interaction with the Obamas ultimately shifted her mood, as she’d been feeling sad after her match.
“I went from being really upset after a win to, like, being really happy. So I’m glad I got to meet them. They gave me some good advice too,” she said.
She then shared some of the words of wisdom she received from the couple, noting that Michelle said “it’s good [for Gauff] to speak up” for herself”.
“I think she was happy that I spoke up for myself today,” Gauff added.
The press conference came after a heated opening night match, where Gauff was left frazzled by qualifier Laura Siegemund’s incredible anticipation and volleying in the first set. The match swung after an epic 26-minute first game of the second set, a minute longer than Iga Swiatek had taken to win her first set against Rebecca Peterson.
During the event, Gauff also expressed her excitement when chair umpire Marijana Veljovic deducted Siegemund a point for not being ready to receive, giving Gauff a 5-1 lead in the decider. Gauff later described the match as “slow,” after closing out a victory in two hours and 51 minutes.
“I mean it was a tough match,” she added during another interview after the match. “I wasn’t playing my best tennis and Laura fights to the end. I managed to overcome some adversity so I’m happy to get through.”
Gauff will play another teenager, 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva, in round two of the tournament.
During her appearance at the US Open on Monday, Michelle Obama joined a ceremony to honour former champion and equality campaigner Billie Jean King. The occasion also celebrated 50 years since the US Open offered equal prize money to men and women.
“Billie Jean teaches us that when things lie in the balance, we all have a choice to make. We can either wait around and accept what we’re given. We can sit silently and hope someone else fights our battles. Or we can make our own stand,” Michelle said during the ceremony.
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