NEW YORK -- Coco Vandeweghe scored one of the biggest upsets of her career Monday at the US Open, and along the way also set a precedent that had locker rooms and press areas buzzing.
After she won the first set against No. 29 seed Sloane Stephens, she granted a brief on-court interview to ESPN commentator Pam Shriver during the ensuing changeover. Vandeweghe had been approached with the idea before the match, with the option to refuse at any point if she felt uncomfortable doing it.
"Pam explained it to me herself," Vandeweghe said, after she did interview -- and dispatched Stephens in two tightly played sets. "She would come out and ask me two questions. It would be in between sets. If I didn't want her out there, I could just wave her away at any point in time. I could say it two seconds before I walked out on the court. But I gave her the nod to go ahead -- and then it happened."
Did Vandeweghe find it weird?
"I don't remember a thing I said," Vandeweghe said. "Dead serious. I don't even remember what she asked."
Shriver asked Vandeweghe two questions: "What were you most happy with in the first set?" and "What do you need to do in the second set to close out the win?"
The conventional wisdom is that any distraction from the task at hand during a match is a threat to a player's focus. In theory, during a changeover a player is concentrating on maintaining focus, doing his or her utmost to block out everything else.
Vandeweghe was well aware of the theory as well as the threat. But she's a realist and was willing to take the risk.
"That was my original thought when I was first approached," she said, referring to the possibility she would lose concentration. "But there's lots of distractions that go on during a tennis match. At the same time, we have on-court coaching during WTA events. You could also lose focus in that way because you're speaking to someone. If you aren't able to put those distractions aside, then you need to kind of definitely work on that aspect of your game."
So Vandeweghe took the plunge. She talked. She conquered. A short while later, she couldn't even remember what she'd said. How's that for multitasking -- for some kind of concentration?
The news of Vandeweghe's bold caper spread like wildfire.
Asked if she would ever do something similar, Serena Williams said, "Being a vintage player from Lord knows what decade -- and I'm old-school, so I don't know if I can say that's something I would do, per se -- but I found it quite interesting."
Caroline Wozniacki voiced her surprise on Twitter.
Did I just see Coco do an interview on court, mid match, after the first set?? Surely you would wanna focus on the game out there? No?— Caroline Wozniacki (@CaroWozniacki) August 31, 2015
Men's top seed Novak Djokovic, who won his first-round match 6-1, 6-1, 6-1, said: "I think it's interesting. If [Vandeweghe] didn't mind -- and I see that she didn't, because she won the match -- it just depends from player to player."
Djokovic saw the action as the kind of "media interaction" that has become fairly commonplace in other sports.
"I don't know how much it can really work in tennis," he said, "But I think the impression of this first interview has been made. Most players in the locker room are talking about it. It's going to be interesting to see if somebody is going to follow-up and accept to do the same. I will not, definitely, at this tournament. But who knows? Who knows what's in the future?"
More of the same, perhaps.
"Working with the USTA and the players, we believe on-court, mid-match interviews add texture to the presentation and insights for viewers," said Jamie Reynolds, Vice President, Production, for ESPN. "We've received positive feedback within the sport, and look forward to continuing with them these two weeks. It's one more avenue in which we seek to bring fans closer to the athletes."
"That's kind of the integrity of tennis when you think about it. It's just you on the court. It's not a reporter. It's not a coach. It's just you in that moment. I kind of love that. It's the only sport where you have that."Serena Williams
"Maybe that's the future of tennis, the future of where it's going," Williams said. "You know, hopefully they don't make that mandatory. So we'll see."
Williams added that while she thinks it's "great for some viewers" to get into the minds of the athletes, during a match she's focused on her play.
"I don't necessarily want to answer questions about anything. I just want to be in that moment," Williams said.
"That's kind of the integrity of tennis when you think about it. It's just you on the court. It's not a reporter. It's not a coach. It's just you in that moment. I kind of love that. It's the only sport where you have that."
Even Vandeweghe professes not to know what might happen next time she is broached -- if there is a next time.
"When I was just in the moment [today] it felt right, so I did it," she said. "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."