Grand Slam Gauff etches name in US Open history

AMERICAN rising star Coco Gauff is the latest Grand Slam champion, with the young gun becoming just the 10th teenager in history to win the US Open, and the first United States representative since Serena Williams in 1999. Gauff had to fight back from a set down to win 2-6 6-2 6-3 against soon-to-be world number one, Aryna Sabalenka.

The American joins an illustrious list of players to have won the title at Flushing Meadows as a teenager, with Williams, Tracy Austin, Stef Graf, Monica Seles, Martina Hings, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Maria Sharapova, and more recently, Bianca Andreescu and Emma Raducanu.

It was Gauff’s second US Open final, having lost to outgoing world number one Iga Swiatek at Roland Garros, but now the sixth seed joins her as a Grand Slam champion. Her opponent Sabalenka won the Australian Open in January, and looked set to make it two Grand Slams in a year after going ahead 6-2 in the first set.

In the opening set, Sabalenka was switched on and broke Gauff three times during the first eight games to go ahead. However the American dug deep, and she began to return serve with a critical break of her own in the fourth game of the second set to lead 3-1.

From that moment, Gauff looked the more dominant player, only dropping four more games for the match, and taking 4-1 and 4-0 leads in the second and third sets respectively. It marked an incredible turnaround from the first set for the American to take control of the game with the momentum against her and see it out across two hours and six minutes.

Gauff might have been outpowered by Sabalenka with the 13 winners to her opponents’ 25, bbut she was also far more disciplined, hitting 19 unforced errors, as Sabalenka sent 46 astray. Gauff’s serve was also strong after the first set, only being broken once, while she won 62 and 52 per cent of her first and second serve points, and 47 per cent of her receiving points.

While the Grand Slam title was a breakthrough, Gauff’s form over the past couple of months has been rock solid. Since losing in the first round at Wimbledon, Gauff has won 18 of her 19 matches, including 12 consecutive victories, the longest in her short career. As a result, she will move up to number three in the world behind Sabalenka who takes the reins of world number one, while Swiatek drops to number two.

“It means so much to me,” Gauff said post-match. “I feel like I’m a little bit in shock in this moment. That French Open loss was a heartbreak for me, but I realized God puts you through tribulations and trials, and that makes this moment even sweeter than I could imagine.

“My dad took me to this tournament, sitting right there, watching Venus and Serena compete, so it’s really incredible to be here on this stage.”

Rated as the underdog not just in the US Open final, but across her career when going up against a higher seed, Gauff said she thrived on being under appreciated.

“Thank you for the people who didn’t believe in me,” she said. “A month ago, I won a 500 title — people said I would stop at that. Two weeks ago, I won a Masters title, and people said that was as big as it was going to get.

“Three weeks later, I’m here with this trophy. To those who thought they were putting water on my fire, they were adding gas to it. Now I’m burning so bright right now.”

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