When singles goes south, CoCo Vandeweghe turns to doubles and Dos Toros to salvage her season

CoCo Vandeweghe fell in the first round of the singles draw at the US Open, but she's into the doubles semifinals with Ashleigh Barty. Julian Finney/Getty Images

NEW YORK -- After a momentous 2017, when she reached the semifinals at both the Australian Open and the US Open and cracked the top 10 for the first time, CoCo Vandweghe was poised for a banner 2018 season.

But then she got the flu ahead of the Australian Open and lost in the first round.

She felt healthy for the clay-court season, traditionally her weakest surface, but lost in the second round at the French Open.

She injured her ankle at Wimbledon, and was sent packing in the first round.

The 26-year-old American has been dealing with the injury ever since, and she wasn't even sure if she would be able to play at the US Open. With little preparation, she contemplated shutting her year down early but wanted to give it a go at her home major. She lost in the first round to Kirsten Flipkens in Queens last week.

"Honestly, I would put 2018 into a dumpster and light it on fire," Vandeweghe said on Tuesday. "That's my God's honest truth. It's been injury-filled, illness-filled, and very, very frustrating. Every time I felt like I was finally getting going, it would get halted with something else. It's been mentally the most trying time I've ever had."

Despite the disastrous year, Vandeweghe is still managing to have some fun. She's playing doubles at the US Open with pal Ashleigh Barty, and the pair advanced to the semifinals on Tuesday. Since they have both been eliminated from singles, they are focused on winning a Grand Slam title together. It would be the first for both. They won the doubles title in Miami together in April, and Vandeweghe feels like they have a good rapport on court.

Known for her on-court intensity, Vandeweghe appears more relaxed playing doubles -- and definitely likes having someone to celebrate with. After their quarterfinal, the two flossed on court, before dissolving into a fit of laughter.

"It's funny because maybe it doesn't appear this way, but I actually find doubles really pressure-filled," Vandeweghe said. "I want to be such a good teammate because I love being a teammate. But I try and be super positive and lead by example as well, so I put a lot of pressure on myself to check myself if I'm a little bit mopey or down or my game's not on.

"I was literally just talking about this with Shelby Rogers, who I've played doubles with during the Fed Cup. She was like, 'You know, you're literally one of the best teammates out there because you're always so positive. Why aren't you like that in singles?' And I'm like, 'I am! You just can't hear my commentary in singles.'"

A former basketball player like her famous uncle Kiki Vandeweghe and grandfather Ernie Vandeweghe, CoCo knows what it takes to be a part of a team, and it's something she takes seriously. "We want to win for one another," Vandeweghe said of Barty.

She's also grateful for the opportunity to play, and gain confidence wherever she can get it this year.

Vandeweghe is trying to make the most of her time off the court, too. The Mexican food enthusiast was introduced to Dos Toros, a restaurant chain in New York and Chicago, by her brother Beau, and started formally working with the brand ahead of the US Open. When they asked if she would be willing to go undercover at one of their locations for a video, she was game, if not a little hesitant.

"My agents came to me about working with them, and I was like, 'Sick, yeah, I can definitely go over there and hang out and have a good time.' I do love free things. I'm not above it, I'll openly admit that, and I love those burritos. I was really nervous, though, at first. But I can talk to anyone, so I thought, 'Oh, this is like making friends at a new place, why not try?'

"Who knew a fake Dos Toros visor and shirt would throw them off so much? It was hilarious. This one girl started cursing up a storm, like 'Oh my gosh,' freaking out when she figured out who I was. She turned bright red, and said, like, 'I'm so dumb.' That was the best reaction by far."

It's those types of projects that have helped lift her spirits. And while a shiny new doubles trophy would certainly help salvage her year, she's eager for it to end. She has three tournaments lined up during the Asian swing, and will start her offseason after Wuhan, which runs Sept. 23-29. Vandeweghe, who is 10-14 in 2018, felt she only had three weeks off last season, due to having to play in the WTA Elite event in China and in the Fed Cup, so she's excited to actually have a few months away from the tour this year.

She plans to take some time off before returning to the gym and to training. She hopes the extra time will help her refuel her passion for the sport.

"I think because it was such a quick turnaround for me last year, the main problem for me was that I wasn't excited to play, which was weird, because I love competing. Training, practice, that's not always fun, it's not always enjoyable because it's hard work. And you're not always excited to go to work every morning. I think everyone can say that. And last year, I just wasn't excited to go to work, which is something that I usually love to do. I love to work hard and sweat and compete and see someone on the other side of the net lose -- that's why I play. As mean as that sounds, that's what I enjoy.

"That's the job. Someone has to lose, and I'm trying for it not to be me. So I'm excited to have that feeling again going into next year. And after this year's all said and done, I'll set down some goals, but there's still three more tournaments, and this doubles title. That's the focus right now."