Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Hail to the Victor! Coco Gauff Wins US Open at Age 19
gvw_ap_news
By Associated Press
Published 7 months ago on
September 11, 2023

Share

What the 19-year-old from Florida was reading, she would say later, were various comments, negative ones, “saying I wasn’t going to win today; that just put the fire in me.”

As a pro athlete from a young age, as someone of whom greatness has been expected by some and doubted by others, Gauff has always taken it all in and kept moving forward, trying to learn from each setback. And now, at a tournament she used to visit as a kid to see her idols, Serena and Venus Williams, Gauff is a Grand Slam champion herself and a certified star.

Setting aside a so-so start Saturday, Gauff surged to a 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over the soon-to-be-No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka in the final at Arthur Ashe Stadium, delighting a raucous crowd that backed her from start to finish.

When Gauff walked into her news conference — phone in hand, of course — she noticed that a large screen on the back wall was rotating pictures of her from the match. So she tucked her new silver trophy under one arm and used the other hand to snap a selfie with those photos in the background.

“Right now I’m just feeling happiness and a very, very small bit of relief,” she explained. “Because honestly, at this point, I was doing it for myself and not for other people.”

First American Teenager Since Williams to Win US Open

Gauff, who is from Florida, is the first American teenager to win the country’s major tennis tournament since Serena Williams in 1999.

If last year’s U.S. Open was all about saying goodbye to Williams as she competed for the final time, this year’s two weeks in New York turned into a “Welcome to the big time!” moment for Gauff. Famous people were coming to watch her play, including former President Barack Obama, who was among those sending congratulatory wishes on Saturday.

Also, Gauff and her parents received a congratulatory phone call from President Joe Biden, who was in New Delhi for the Group of 20 summit.

Gauff burst onto the scene at 15 by becoming the youngest qualifier in Wimbledon history and making it to the fourth round in her Grand Slam debut in 2019. She reached her initial major final at last year’s French Open, finishing as the runner-up to Iga Swiatek, a loss that stung.

“I watched Iga lift up that trophy, and I watched her the whole time,” Gauff recalled. “I said, ‘I’m not going to take my eyes off her, because I want to feel what that felt like for her.’”

Another down moment came this July at the All England Club, where she exited in the first round. Since then, she has won 18 of 19 matches, and now 12 in a row, while working with a new coaching pair of Brad Gilbert and Pere Riba.

The No. 6-seeded Gauff did it Saturday by withstanding the power displayed by Sabalenka on nearly every swing of her racket, eventually getting accustomed to it and managing to get back shot after shot. Gauff broke to begin the third set on one such point, tracking down every ball hit her way until eventually smacking a putaway volley that she punctuated with a fist pump and a scream of “Come on!”

Soon it was 4-0 in that set for Gauff. Didn’t take long for her to close it out, then drop to her back on the court, before climbing into the stands to find her parents.

“You did it!” Gauff’s mom told her, both in tears.

Coco Gauff, of the United States, holds up the championship trophy after defeating Aryna Sabalenka, of Belarus, in the women’s singles final of the U.S. Open tennis championships, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in New York. (AP/Frank Franklin II)

$3 Million to the Women’s Winner

In addition to her trophy, Gauff was handed an envelope with the champion’s $3 million paycheck, the same amount that Novak Djokovic got for winning Sunday’s men’s final. This is the 50th anniversary of when the 1973 U.S. Open became the first major sports event to pay women and men equal prize money; the person who led that effort, Hall of Fame player and rights advocate Billie Jean King, was on hand Saturday.

“Thank you, Billie,” Gauff said, “for fighting for this.”

Sabalenka came in 23-2 at majors in 2023, including a title at the Australian Open. The 25-year-old from Belarus already was assured of rising from No. 2 to No. 1 in the rankings next week (Gauff will be No. 3 in singles, No. 1 in doubles).

That ranking milestone is “why I’m not super depressed right now,” Sabalenka said, then joked: “I’m definitely going to be. I’m definitely going for a drink tonight — if I’m allowed to say that.”

She was reduced to the role of foil by the fans in 23,000-capacity arena. Setting the tone, Gauff’s pre-match TV interview, shown in the arena, was drowned out by the sound of applause and yells reverberating off the closed retractable roof.

Winners by Gauff were celebrated as if the match were over. So were Sabalenka’s miscues. When Sabalenka heard cheers during the post-match ceremony, she joked: “You guys could have supported (me) like this during the match.”

By the end, she had 46 unforced errors, Gauff 19. Here’s another way to view it: Gauff only needed 13 winners to accumulate 83 points.

“Sometimes, I can get emotional,” Sabalenka said. “Today on the court, I was overthinking and I was missing … balls I shouldn’t be missing.”

When Sabalenka has everything calibrated just right, it’s difficult for any foe to handle it — even someone as speedy, smart and instinctive as Gauff, whose get-to-every-ball court coverage kept points alive.

Sabalenka credited Gauff’s superb defense — “definitely, she was moving just unbelievable” and “I always had to play like an extra ball” — but also thought many mistakes were “more about me than her. I lost this match.”

Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, holds up the championship trophy after defeating Daniil Medvedev, of Russia, in the men’s singles final of the U.S. Open tennis championships, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in New York. (AP/Manu Fernandez)

24th Grand Slam Title for Djokovic

Halfway through a second set that lasted 1 hour, 44 minutes, a test of tenacity as much as talent amid a U.S. Open final as exhausting as it was exhilarating, Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev engaged each other in a 32-stroke point.

It was among many such elongated exchanges between two men whose styles are nearly mirror images, and Djokovic capitulated by netting a backhand. He fell to his back and stayed down, chest heaving. The crowd roared. Djokovic sat up but remained on the ground for a bit. The crowd roared some more, appreciating the effort, saluting the entertainment.

Using every ounce of his energy and some serve-and-volley guile — an old man with new tricks — Djokovic emerged for a 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory over Medvedev at Flushing Meadows to claim a historic 24th Grand Slam title on Sunday night in a match more closely contested than the straight-set score indicated.

“I never imagined that I would be here standing with you talking about 24 Slams. I never thought that would be the reality,” said Djokovic, a 36-year-old from Serbia and the tournament’s oldest male champion in the Open era, which dates to 1968. “But the last couple of years, I felt I have a chance, I have a shot for history, and why not grab it if it’s presented?”

He moved one major singles title ahead of Serena Williams and is the first player to win 24 in the Open era. Margaret Court also collected a total of 24, but 13 of those came before professionals were admitted to the Slam events.

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

Walberg Era Begins With a Charge to ‘Revolutionize’ Bulldogs Basketball

DON'T MISS

California Man Sentenced to 40 Years to Life for Fatal Freeway Shooting of 6-Year-Old Boy

DON'T MISS

16 Clovis Students Rewarded With Scholarships for Their Resilience

DON'T MISS

Dr. Green Thumb’s Is Open. Sweet Flower Debuts Saturday in Fresno Cannabis Rollout.

DON'T MISS

Reacher Star Alan Ritchson Calls Donald Trump a ‘Rapist’

DON'T MISS

Community Leaders Call for Transparency in Fresno Superintendent Search

DON'T MISS

Israeli Settlers Rampage Through a West Bank Village, Killing 1 Palestinian and Wounding 25

DON'T MISS

US Intelligence Finding Shows China Surging Equipment Sales to Russia to Help War Effort in Ukraine

DON'T MISS

From Tragedy to Triumph: The Land Before Time Litter’s Journey

DON'T MISS

Oakland Officials Vote to Include ‘San Francisco’ in Airport’s Name

UP NEXT

California Man Sentenced to 40 Years to Life for Fatal Freeway Shooting of 6-Year-Old Boy

UP NEXT

16 Clovis Students Rewarded With Scholarships for Their Resilience

UP NEXT

Dr. Green Thumb’s Is Open. Sweet Flower Debuts Saturday in Fresno Cannabis Rollout.

UP NEXT

Reacher Star Alan Ritchson Calls Donald Trump a ‘Rapist’

UP NEXT

Community Leaders Call for Transparency in Fresno Superintendent Search

UP NEXT

Israeli Settlers Rampage Through a West Bank Village, Killing 1 Palestinian and Wounding 25

UP NEXT

US Intelligence Finding Shows China Surging Equipment Sales to Russia to Help War Effort in Ukraine

UP NEXT

From Tragedy to Triumph: The Land Before Time Litter’s Journey

UP NEXT

Oakland Officials Vote to Include ‘San Francisco’ in Airport’s Name

UP NEXT

Several Writers Decline Recognition From PEN America in Protest Over Its Israel-Hamas War Stance

Dr. Green Thumb’s Is Open. Sweet Flower Debuts Saturday in Fresno Cannabis Rollout.

12 hours ago

Reacher Star Alan Ritchson Calls Donald Trump a ‘Rapist’

12 hours ago

Community Leaders Call for Transparency in Fresno Superintendent Search

12 hours ago

Israeli Settlers Rampage Through a West Bank Village, Killing 1 Palestinian and Wounding 25

15 hours ago

US Intelligence Finding Shows China Surging Equipment Sales to Russia to Help War Effort in Ukraine

15 hours ago

From Tragedy to Triumph: The Land Before Time Litter’s Journey

16 hours ago

Oakland Officials Vote to Include ‘San Francisco’ in Airport’s Name

17 hours ago

Several Writers Decline Recognition From PEN America in Protest Over Its Israel-Hamas War Stance

17 hours ago

US Consumer Sentiment Falls Slightly as Outlook for Inflation Worsens

17 hours ago

A Near-Total Ban on Abortion Has Supercharged the Political Dynamics of Arizona, a Key Swing State

17 hours ago

Walberg Era Begins With a Charge to ‘Revolutionize’ Bulldogs Basketball

A new era of Fresno State men’s basketball is here. The Red Wave came out strong and welcomed Vance Walberg as coach with a Bulldog pa...

9 hours ago

9 hours ago

Walberg Era Begins With a Charge to ‘Revolutionize’ Bulldogs Basketball

10 hours ago

California Man Sentenced to 40 Years to Life for Fatal Freeway Shooting of 6-Year-Old Boy

11 hours ago

16 Clovis Students Rewarded With Scholarships for Their Resilience

12 hours ago

Dr. Green Thumb’s Is Open. Sweet Flower Debuts Saturday in Fresno Cannabis Rollout.

12 hours ago

Reacher Star Alan Ritchson Calls Donald Trump a ‘Rapist’

12 hours ago

Community Leaders Call for Transparency in Fresno Superintendent Search

15 hours ago

Israeli Settlers Rampage Through a West Bank Village, Killing 1 Palestinian and Wounding 25

15 hours ago

US Intelligence Finding Shows China Surging Equipment Sales to Russia to Help War Effort in Ukraine

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend