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Hailey Baptiste falls in Citi Open

PICTURED: Hailey Baptiste (Photo credit: United States Tennis Association YouTube)

HAILEY BAPTISTE followed up her maiden win on the WTA Tour with a hard-fought yet disappointing three-set defeat to France's Kristina 'Kiki' Mladenovic at the Citi Open on Wednesday (Jul 31).

The 17-year-old American, making her WTA Tour debut, fell 6-4 4-6 6-3 in a thriller that had her new legion of fans at Washington D.C.'s Rock Creek Park Tennis Center going wild.

The home-town hero, who stunned compatriot Madison Keys in straight sets the previous day, was well supported by the vocal yet sparse crowd.

She narrowly lost the opening set but battled back to level matters before the experience of Mladenovic, who served 11 double faults, gave the world no.49 the winning edge in the third set to reach the quarter-finals.

Baptiste had gone from zero to hero on Tuesday (Jul 30). Yet she was not on the radar of either the fans nor the media for her first match until she fearlessly brushed aside former world no.7 Keys.

Following her magnificent triumph the focus from fans and the press swiftly shifted from US rising star 15-year-old Cori 'Coco' Gauff, tamely bundled out in the opening round, to the unassuming Baptiste.

Born and raised in Northwest D.C., just five minutes away from the tournament venue, Baptiste was propelled to hero status immediately after her first ever WTA Tour match with spectators chanting her name all around the arena after her 7-6(4) 6-2 success over 2017 US Open runner-up Keys.

And once more the world no.283, who has seven ITF titles to her credit, was well supported against Mladenovic. However, she faded in the final set to taste her inaugural defeat on the WTA Tour.

In the penultimate match of the day there were surprisingly plenty of empty seats at Stadium Court for Baptiste's latest venture.

Battling Baptiste’s powerful serve, which was generally over the 100mph all evening, proved effective enough for the pair to trade the opening two sets at high octane pace.
But in the decider Baptiste took her foot off the pedal to run out of steam and ideas. Yet she only lost four service games overall to put up an incredible show considering that this was her first WTA Tour event.

Mladenovic, more famously known for being the glamorous girlfriend of Austrian ace Dominic Thiem from the ATP Tour, took advantage of the teenager languishing in the final set with some crafty play to wrap up the victory.

But Baptiste, who is rapid around the court and boasts a powerful forehand, will no doubt be gracing the courts in the top tier soon.

And she will be gain plenty of media frenzy for years to come if she can produce explosive performances like she did at Washington's summer classic, which serves as a warm-up to the US Open, and shown that Gauff has a serious rival to become the next sensation from the United States.

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