Still in her teenage years, Coco Gauff found herself steeped within the harsh commentary of social media unjust minutes before stepping onto the court for the U.S. Open final. The conjecture she read—specifically the negative remarks foretelling her defeat —sparked a fervor within her and only strengthened her resolve. Gauff has always been a proactive learner and an unyielding figure on her journey towards greatness, in spite of the doubts and expectations that have been thrust upon her from an early age.
Intertwined in Gauff’s journey is a poignant sense of nostalgia, taking her back to fond memories of her childhood when she would watch Serena and Venus Williams, her idols, on the same court where she now stood as a Grand Slam champion.
Traversing beyond a slightly lacklustre start, Gauff came out with an impressive 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over impending world number one, Aryna Sabalenka, in the final at Arthur Ashe Stadium. This momentous win secured her place among tennis legends, much to the delight of her zealous supporters who spurred her on throughout the match.
Walking into her subsequent press conference with her ever-present smartphone in hand, she noticed her victory images rotating on a large screen. Holding her newfound silver trophy securely under her arm, Gauff spared a moment to capture a self-portrait, with her triumphant photos as the backdrop.
Genuine happiness and a sense of relief, albeit small, flooded Gauff’s heart. The match’s outcome had been a personal dream of hers, driven not by the expectations of others, but by her own motivation and passion for the game. Gauff’s victory is especially significant, marking the first time an American teenager has claimed the country’s major tennis tournament since Serena Williams in 1999.
The U.S Open morphed into Gauff’s debut into the big leagues, attracting a string of notable personalities, including the former president, Barack Obama, who expressed congratulations on her Saturday victory. Gauff’s big break happened in 2019, when, at only 15, she became the youngest qualifier in Wimbledon history and successfully reached the fourth round during her Grand Slam debut.
Another milestone was reached when she arrived at her initial major final at the previous year’s French Open as the runner-up to Iga Swiatek—a defeat which she deeply felt. Gauff, who since then resolved to win 18 of 19 matches and 12 consecutively, forged a new chapter in her career with her new coaching team, Brad Gilbert and Pere Riba.
Despite Sabalenka’s powerhouse performance, Gauff stood her ground, returning each shot and carving out a 4-0 lead in the third set before securing her victory. Overwhelmed by joy, she leapt into the stand, sharing a heartfelt moment with her parents.
A pivotal moment in tennis history came to light as Gauff was handed her $3 million champion’s paycheck, signifying the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Open in 1973, the first major sports event to offer equal prize money to men and women. Gauff warmly praised Billie Jean King, the Hall of Fame player and rights advocate, for her pivotal role in this achievement.
Sabalenka, a major threat on the tennis scene with a record of major wins, was looking forward to her new rank of number one despite her U.S. Open loss. Nevertheless, Gauff took the limelight as her exceptional defensive skills and unyielding spirit led her to the championship title.
The pressure is on Gauff to replicate or surpass her achievement, but she stands resolute, guided by her inherent knack for resilience, arguing and stubbornness that serve her well beyond the court – regardless of whether it’s facing endless comments or proving naysayers wrong.
True to her youthful disposition, Gauff has the tendency to lean towards the unexpected, just as her parents can attest to. Indeed, she is a teen, but one who is now a Grand Slam champion and a testament to the powerful force of the game. The tennis world eagerly awaits to witness where this path will take her next.