On Saturday, Sept. 9, United States tennis player Coco Gauff became the U.S. Open champion, after upsetting no. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka in three sets.
At just 19, no. 6 seeded Gauff defeated the Belarusian tennis player in the final two sets after losing the first. This marks just the 10th time this has happened and the first since Serena Williams won it in 1999 at 17 years old.
Gauff has been seen as a tennis prodigy since she was young, first playing when she was 6 years old. At age 13, Gauff started competing in ITF Junior Circuit and immediately went into the highest level Grade A and Grade 1 tournaments. In just her third tournament, she finished as the runner-up Jaimee Fourlis, who is four years older than Gauff.
At 14 years old, she turned pro and debuted in the ITF Women’s Circuit, where she won her first match. One year later, she became the youngest tennis player in history to qualify for the Wimbledon main draw at 15 after defeating Aliona Bolsova and Greet Minnen. She did the impossible in her first main draw, upsetting the seven-time grand slam and five-time Wimbledon Champion Venus Williams. She eventually lost to the eventual champion, Simona Halep, in the fourth round.
In 2021, she qualified for the 2020 Tokoyo Olympics, becoming just the second youngest after Jennifer Capriati. However, Gauff tested positive for COVID-19, forcing her to withdraw from the games. The next year, at the Canadian Open, she and Jennifer Pegula defeated Nicole Melichar and Ellen Perez to win the doubles, placing herself at no. 1 for doubles players.
2023 has proven to be Gauff’s year. She won the WTA Auckland Open in her first open of the season, defeating Rebeka Masarova. Gauff and Pegula successfully defended their doubles title at the Qatar Total Open. In August, she won the Washington Open for her first WTA 500 singles title, and her best was still yet to come.
Entering the U.S. Open as the sixth seed, she opened the tournament by defeating Latvian Jeļena Ostapenko, who, before facing Gauff, stunned the world by defeating the reigning U.S. Open champion Iga Świątek. After defeating Ostapenko, Gauff defeated Karolína Muchová, setting up the matchup against Gauff and no. 2 seeded Sabalenka.
In the opening set of the championship, which lasted 40 minutes, Gauff struggled throughout it and lost 2-6. In the last 28 U.S. Opens, 27 times the person who won the opening set has won the entire open, so the odds were more than stacked against her. But even with the numbers against her, she would take set two, setting up match three as the decider.
In match three, Gauff immediately took an early 4-0 lead, and while Sabalenka made a comeback by winning two sets, it was not enough as after over two hours, Gauff defeated Sabalenka for the title. The deciding factor ended up being unforced errors, as Sabalenka had 46 compared to Gauff’s 19.
After defeating Sabalenka, Gauff immediately collapsed to the ground and covered her face with her hands, overcome with emotion for what she had just pulled off.
“I’m just feeling happiness and a very, very small bit of relief,” Gauff said. “Because honestly at this point, I was doing it for myself and not for other people. I know how to keep my peace but also embrace all of this around me.”
With her win at the U.S. Open, Gauff continues to build her impressive resume, now having eight WTA double wins and six WTA Tour singles titles. At just 19, the sky is truly the limit for what she could accomplish in her career.