Jessica Evans-Hill sayings, “The only one who can tell you ‘you can’t win is you and you don’t have to listen” must be ringing in Cori Dionne “Coco” Gauff’s ears, prior to winning the 2023 US Open.
Coco Gauff made history for herself and the country on Saturday, September 9, when she became America’s first teenage grand slam champion in more than 20 years in New York, following in the footsteps of the legendary Serena Williams.
American teenager landed her first Grand Slam title with a fightback win over Aryna Sabalenka in the US Open final.
The Atlanta, Georgia-US-born who was seeded sixth in the tournament had a while to get going in front of a supportive home crowd, but she gained confidence and eventually defeated second-seeded Sabalenka.
Gauff, aged, 19, successfully clinched a 2-6 6-3 6-2 win on a delirious Arthur Ashe Stadium.
A childhood prodigy who had won the US national under-12 title aged 10 and a grand slam junior crown at only 14, qualified for the women’s singles at SW19 the following year and defeated Venus Williams in the first round.
Though it was Venus Williams who was central to Coco’s bursting on the global stage at Wimbledon in 2019, she really idolised both Williams sisters, especially Serena.
And she is now living her dream life which is to step into the shoes of her idol.
Williams’ diamond-encrusted and star-studded departure from tennis at Flushing Meadows last year showcased the impact she has had on the sport over 25 years.
But it also left a big hole, particularly for tennis in the US, where a dearth of male success over the same period has seen its profile wane.
Now 12 months later, here is Gauff, taking over the baton in seamless fashion and poised to become one of the world’s biggest sporting stars.
She showed maturity far beyond her 19 years to recover from a shaky start and defeat Aryna Sabalenka to win her maiden grand slam title in front of an adoring New York crowd.
Speaking on her feat, Gauff said: “I feel like I’m in a little bit of shock at the moment.
“I feel like God puts you through tribulations and trials and that makes this even sweeter,” added the American, who lost in her only other major singles final at the 2022 French Open.
“I’m thankful for this moment. I don’t have any words.”
Gauff is now ranked number three in women’s single and number one in doubles following her remarkable achievement.
The Williams family has played a huge role in the story of Gauff’s ascent up the tennis ladder. She grew up idolising the sisters, while her first pay check came from playing a young Serena in an advert.
Speaking about Serena’s influence on her in New York last year, Gauff said: “Growing up, I never thought that I was different because the number one player in the world was somebody who looked like me.
“I love that she always elevates herself. Sometimes being a woman, a black woman in the world, you kind of settle for less. I can’t remember a moment in her career or life that she settled for less.”
Gauff has won six WTA Tour singles titles, including a major at the 2023 US Open, and eight doubles titles, five partnering with Jessica Pegula and three with Caty McNally.
Gauff is such a huge asset for tennis is not just on the court with her performances but the person she is away from the court.
She is a big fan of TikTok and superheroes, very much a 21st century American teenager, yet she also uses her platform to advocate for causes she believes in, speaking at a Black Lives Matter rally in her home town of Delray Beach when she was only 16.
She is a superb talker on a range of subjects, saying earlier this week about handling the spotlight: “At first I used to think negative things, like, ‘Why is there so much pressure, why is this so hard’?
“I realise in a way it’s pressure but it’s not. There are people struggling to feed their families, people who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from, people who have to pay their bills.
“That’s real pressure, that’s real hardship, that’s real life. I’m getting paid to do what I love and getting support to do what I love. That’s something that I don’t take for granted.”