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Coco Gauff Defeats Aryna Sabalenka In US Open To Win First Major Title


Coco Gauff defeated Aryna Sabalenka 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Saturday at the US Open to claim her first major victory in front of a cheering crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium on a rainy day.

The American player, 19, collapsed to the ground and lay on her back on the court after the game, crying joyfully. Gauff raced up the stairs after giving Sabalenka an emotional hug, hugging her parents first, then the rest of her squad.

Gauff subsequently admitted that she was still processing the triumph in front of the illustrious throng that included 2006 champion Maria Sharapova, Kevin Durant, Diane Keaton, Nicole Kidman, Spike Lee, and Mindy Kaling.

“Oh my goodness, it means so much to me,” Gauff told ESPN’s Mary Joe Fernandez. “I feel like I’m a little bit in shock in this moment. That [2022] French Open loss was a heartbreak for me. But I realized God put you through tribulations and trials and that makes this moment even sweeter than I could have imagined.”

After the game, she received social media congratulations from a number of well-known figures, including former President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden.

Gauff is the first American player to win a major championship since Sofia Kenin at the Australian Open in 2020. She is also the youngest American to win the US Open since Serena Williams in 1999. Gauff also became the only woman since Williams, who also won the title in 1999, to do it in New York after dropping the first set in three of her finals matches.

Gauff said it was a privilege to have her name on the same trophy as Williams and her sister Venus, who have won the title eight times, in a statement to the media following the match.

“I mean, they’re the reason why I have this trophy today, to be honest,” Gauff said. “They have allowed me to believe in this dream. Growing up, there weren’t too many Black tennis players dominating the sport. It was literally, at that time when I was younger, it was just them that I can remember.

“Obviously more came because of their legacy, so it made the dream more believable. But all the things that they had to go through, they made it easier for someone like me to do this.”

Gauff, the sixth seed in the event, was broken in the first game of the match and had a difficult time maintaining any momentum during the tense 40-minute first set. History was not on her side because the first-set winner had won 27 of the previous 28 US Open women’s finals. But she seized the initiative in the second set, defeating Sabalenka in the fourth game and winning 81% of her first serve points. Her “Come on!” cries and fist pumps became more animated with each point as her confidence soared.

Gauff played the entire set that was decided. She quickly took a 4-0 lead before holding off Sabalenka’s desperate attempts and a medical timeout at 4-1. Gauff won the US Open after two hours and six minutes of competition.

“You played unbelievable,” Sabalenka said to Gauff during the on-court trophy ceremony. “Congrats to you and your team, you guys deserve this title. Many more to come, I’m pretty sure.”

Gauff, who is still in her adolescent years, rose to prominence in the sport after she qualified as a 15-year-old for Wimbledon in 2019 and advanced to the fourth round. She has now won five WTA championships and advanced to the 2022 French Open final.

Gauff has continued to be in the public eye, and expectations for her career have risen as a result of a number of high-profile endorsement deals and a growing online presence. Gauff claimed on Saturday that the pressure has been unbearable at times and that she thought she was expected to win a major title right away following her run to the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2019.

“It’s been difficult,” she said. “I mean, it’s been a long journey to this point. I wasn’t a fully developed player, and I still think I have a lot of development to go. At that moment, I think people were putting a lot of pressure on me to win. I felt that at 15 I had to win a Slam at 15.

“I think that was, you know, not the mistake, because everything led to this moment so there were no mistakes, but that was a little bit of the pressure that I was feeling. Now I just realize that I just need to go out there and try my best.”

Gauff assembled a new squad, including Brad Gilbert as a consultant and coach, after falling short at Wimbledon in July. Since then, she has won the championships in Cincinnati and Washington, D.C., and she is 18-1 in the current hard-court swing. Along with the 2023 French Open runner-up Karolina Muchova in the semifinals, she defeated two Grand Slam champions en route to the championship match.

Gauff informed the crowd that those who had questioned her had inspired her.

“I want to say honestly thank you to the people who didn’t believe in me,” Gauff said. “A month ago, I won a 500 title and people said, I would stop at that. Two weeks ago, I won a 1000 title and people were saying that was the biggest it was going to get. So three weeks later, I’m here with this trophy right now.

“I’ve tried my best to carry this with grace and I’ve been doing my best. So honestly, to those who thought they were putting water on my fire, you were really adding gas to it. And now I’m really burning so bright right now.”

Gauff later revealed to reporters that she had been reading internet comments from those who had doubts about her ability to win up until the match.

Gauff will increase to a career-high ranking of No. 3 on Monday in addition to receiving $3 million for the triumph, which she thanked Billie Jean King for fighting for as she accepted it. Despite losing, Sabalenka, the current Australian Open winner, will take over the top spot for the first time.

Gauff and partner Jessica Pegula will reclaim the top spot in the doubles rankings as well. At the US Open, the duo advanced to the quarterfinals.

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