Coco Gauff wins 1st Grand Slam title at age 19
Many had long held the belief that Coco Gauff was destined for greatness, irrespective of her tender age or any obstacles in her path. These colossal expectations, however, didn’t make her journey to becoming a teenage Grand Slam champion any less challenging, particularly when they were accompanied by the doubting voices of others.
But she defied the odds, achieving this remarkable feat at the age of 19, under the bright lights of the U.S. Open, a tournament she used to attend as a wide-eyed child with her parents, watching her idols, Serena and Venus Williams, in action.
Despite a somewhat shaky start, Gauff powered her way to her first major championship by staging a thrilling comeback against Aryna Sabalenka, winning 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, much to the delight of the boisterous crowd that had been with her every step of the way.
As the tears of joy flowed, and hugs were exchanged with her emotional parents, Gauff first thanked her family and then used her moment in the spotlight to address those who had cast doubts on her journey. With the microphone in hand during the ceremony, she said, “Thank you to the people who didn’t believe in me. Like a month ago, I won a (tour) title, and people said I would stop at that.
Two weeks ago, I won a (tour) title, and people were saying that was the biggest it was going to get. So three weeks later, I’m here with this trophy right now. Tried my best to carry this with grace, and I’ve been doing my best, so honestly, to those who thought they were putting water in my fire: You were really adding gas to it, and now it’s really burning so bright right now.”
Hailing from Florida, Gauff became the first American teenager to clinch the country’s major tennis tournament since Serena Williams in 1999. If the previous year’s U.S. Open marked a farewell to Serena, this year’s edition turned into a resounding “Welcome to the big time!” moment for Gauff.
Congratulations to US Open champion, @CocoGauff! We couldn’t be prouder of you on and off the court – and we know the best is yet to come.— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 9, 2023
She burst onto the tennis scene at just 15, becoming the youngest qualifier in Wimbledon history and making it to the fourth round in her Grand Slam debut in 2019. Her first major final came at the French Open last year, where she finished as the runner-up.
However, a setback occurred at Wimbledon this July when she was eliminated in the first round. Since then, she’s been on a tear, winning 18 of 19 matches while working with a new coaching duo, Brad Gilbert and Pere Riba.
In Saturday’s final, the sixth-seeded Gauff displayed remarkable resilience, withstanding the power of Sabalenka’s shots on nearly every occasion. Gauff eventually got into her groove, relentlessly returning shot after shot. Gauff broke early in the third set, and the momentum continued to build, with the score soon at 4-0 in her favor.
A medical timeout for Sabalenka’s left leg massage at 4-1 couldn’t derail Gauff, who maintained her focus by practicing serves during the brief pause. Sabalenka did manage to break back, making it 4-2, but Gauff promptly reclaimed the lead and served out the victory, collapsing onto the court in joy before climbing into the stands to embrace her proud parents.
Sabalenka had entered the day with a 23-2 record at major tournaments in 2023, including a Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. The Belarusian was set to rise to World No. 1 in the WTA rankings. However, she found herself playing the role of the crowd’s foil as the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd fervently supported Gauff, as is customary when an American competes on home soil.
Gauff’s winners were celebrated as if they were championship-clinching points from the very beginning, and Sabalenka’s errors, including six double faults, were met with groans. By the end of the match, Sabalenka had committed 46 unforced errors, more than double Gauff’s total of 19.
Gauff’s remarkable victory required only 13 winners to accumulate 83 points. While Sabalenka’s powerful game can be daunting, Gauff’s incredible speed and court coverage allowed her to extend points that most players would have surrendered. Gauff’s ability to consistently return Sabalenka’s shots put her opponent under tremendous pressure, leading to frequent errors and signs of frustration from Sabalenka.
The match had its moments of brilliance, with thrilling points that had the crowd on the edge of their seats. Gauff’s determination to chase down every ball and Sabalenka’s powerful shots added to the drama.
Ultimately, Gauff’s unwavering resilience and newfound maturity proved to be the keys to her victory. In the end, it was clear that the love and support of the crowd were showered upon the sport’s newest Grand Slam champion, Coco Gauff.