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U.S. Open: CoCo Vandeweghe's rough year continues

Coco Vandeweghe returns the ball during her women's

Coco Vandeweghe returns the ball during her women's singles first-round match against Kirsten Flipkens at the 2018 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. Credit: Getty Images/Julian Finney

Last year was CoCo Vandeweghe’s best Grand Slam season by a mile, concluding with a loss to Madison Keys in the semifinals of the U.S. Open.

This year?

“I could throw 2018 into the garbage can real fast,” she said on Tuesday.

This came after a loss in the first round of the Open to Kirsten Flipkens, 6-3, 7-6 (3).

Sickness and a right ankle injury have heavily impacted Vandeweghe’s season. Three weeks ago the No. 24 seed was considering not playing in the Open at all. The loss to Flipkens was her fifth consecutive first-round loss, a stretch than began when she hurt her ankle.

“I played minimal tennis since the injury,” said Vandeweghe, who played and lost in the first round of Cincinnati and New Haven in August. “It’s still been work in progress with the injury. I’ve been pain free for about two weeks. What do you expect when you can only play for two weeks pain free? This Grand Slam was a huge question for me.”

The year started off with a bout of the flu in Australia and losing in the first round of the Australian Open.

“Start of season was fine as far as getting prepared in the offseason,” Vandeweghe said. “I had the flu in Australia, so there goes one Grand Slam. Then it takes a while to recover. Athletes are more high-functioning machines and it takes a while to recover and get back to peak performance. I had a good clay court season, then I injure myself in the grass court season. What do you expect? There’s not much to build on when I’m playing two months out of the whole year.”

Instead of an extended rest, she now faces playing the rest of the season in Asia. Last year, it was both Asia and the Fed Cup where she helped the U.S. win its first title in 17 years by defeating Belarus in Minsk. That was mid November.

“Unfortunately we have to go to Asia,” she said. “There are tournaments in China we have to play. It would probably cost me more money to not play those tournaments than play them.”

She is mindful what last fall was like and how much it impacted her.

“Playing Fed Cup last year and the toll it took, along with playing in [China]. I had about a two-and -a-half-week offseason. Not a lot of time to do anything,” Vandeweghe said. “It’s tough mentally. Mentally more than anything. My body broke down, you saw it when I got sick in Australia. Mentally it took time to get working again. I hadn’t had such a season like that, where I was playing until mid-November. Usually my season is done in middle October. I don’t usually play European indoor season, that was the first time I ever did and that was because of Fed Cup.”

Now she’s out of her favorite tournament, where the New York cheers still ring in her head. “I really love it,” she said. “It’s something you can’t replicate anywhere else than when you come to New York. It’s what I love to experience.”

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