US Open: Teenage sensation Coco Gauff believes she has the “maturity” to win her first Grand Slam… but world No.1. Aryna Sabalenka, the No. 1, will face her toughest test yet
- Coco Gauff admitted she was “relieved” to reach the French Open final in 2022
- But the American star wants to go one step further at the US Open on Saturday
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The longing for Coco Gauff to win her first Grand Slam title on Saturday will reach even further than the vast reaches of American tennis.
After several days of off-court embarrassment for the women’s game, there is nothing more fitting than the emergence of a charismatic new champion to represent the sport’s most significant market.
This week, the WTA Tour finally announced a venue for its year-end championships taking place in late October. The late unveiling of Cancun drew sharp criticism, as did the fact that it is seven time zones away from the Billie Jean King Cup team finals that immediately follow.
The hugely popular 19-year-old’s coronation at Flushing Meadows would quickly overshadow both that and the machinations of the oil protesters who held up her semi-final victory over Karolina Muchova for 49 minutes.
It would also provide an important counterweight to the current dominance of players from Eastern Europe, who have collectively won the last six majors.
Coco Gauff has the chance to win her first Grand Slam against Aryna Sabalenka on Saturday
Sabalenka recovered from a 6-0 loss in the first set against Madison Keys to reach the final in Queens
But Gauff has been in good form this tournament and believes she has matured since her last final
Arthur Ashe Stadium will be a lonely place for Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, although her nationality meeting an American may not be such a big factor. The situation in Ukraine was discussed less here than at Wimbledon and definitely less than at Roland Garros, where Sabalenka skipped several press conferences after being questioned about previous ties with dictator Alexander Lukashenko.
It’s more about whether Gauff, who has been touted as the next big thing for four years, can finally deliver. She believes she can, unlike when she made it to the final of the 2022 French Open.
“Then I was just relieved that I made it to the final because so many people expected a lot from me,” she admitted. “I just didn’t really believe I had what it took, especially at the time when I was playing against Iga (Swiatek), who was on a winning streak and stuff.”
“This time I focused more on myself and my expectations of myself. I don’t go on social media or listen to people who think I can do it or think I can’t do it. I really believe I have the maturity and ability to do it now.”
She has had a remarkable turnaround since her first-round exit at Wimbledon, where she seemed to be drifting away.
“Honestly, when I had that at Wimbledon I was really thinking about the off-season and getting ready for next year. I still think I have a lot to improve on and I 100% didn’t think these results would happen.”
She also vowed to channel her inner Kobe Bryant by following the basketball superstar and reminding herself that the job isn’t done until it’s over: “He has an incredible mentality.” One of the things is , that he doesn’t celebrate when he’s on top, no matter what lead they have.
Gauff admitted she was “relieved” to have reached the final of the 2022 French Open in Paris (above)
The 19-year-old will have the crowd on her side when she takes on Sabalenka on Saturday
“So that’s the mentality I have.” I’m trying to enjoy the moment but also know I still have more work to do. The final is an incredible achievement, but I’m not satisfied with it yet.”
Aside from her 0-6 first set win over Madison Keys in the semifinals, Sabalenka seemed to be the best player of the tournament. She brings a physical presence and a powerful ball strike – and a screaming soundtrack – that Gauff has never experienced here.
As the American attempts to emulate Emma Raducanu and become a teenage US Open champion, she will have to compete against someone who has already won this year’s Australian Open title.
“I think this final will definitely help me with all the emotions I experienced,” Sabalenka said. “It will be different, but I know what emotions to expect and how to deal with them.”
“But she (Gauff) moves really well and serves very well too. She’s hungry and has nothing to lose, so to speak. She knows the crowd will support her. I think that makes her a really difficult opponent. ‘