On the 50th year of the US Open becoming the first of the four Grand Slams to give parity of pay to both the men and women playing in it, an American woman won the US Open singles title. On Saturday, Coco Gauff fought a three-setter past Aryna Sabalenka to clinch her first Major crown, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Over the fortnight, as Gauff came through one round after another, her wins and the way she acquired these wins created ripples as to whether the 19-year-old had it in her to make it to the title round. And, once she did so, would she be able to come up with a similar performance – if not better – than in all these earlier rounds, to hoist the trophy.
In the end, Gauff did all of these and beautifully at that. In the final, Sabalenka went, to borrow the popular phrase, “hammer and tongs” and at. The 25-year-old, who will take her place as the world no. 1 officially on Monday, 12th September, seemed to feel the momentousness of the event she was contesting.
She made mistakes and yet was able to keep herself ahead in the first set against Gauff, eventually pocketing the set and putting herself in the lead. From the second set onwards, Sabalenka’s inability to fire clean winners cost her as Gauff meticulously broke down her game, point after point, to construct herself and her superiority for the rest of the match.
In Gauff being able to play so freely despite having lost the opening set one also saw, yet again, the evolution she’s had since her upsetting loss in the first round at Wimbledon.
US Open: The upward moving trend of Coco Gauff's North American summer
Her motivation to get past that loss and build a solid framework of results around her saw her engage Pere Riba and Brad Gilbert as coaches.
This partnership brought about a swift transition to more positive results, in the form of two titles leading up to the US Open – at the Citi DC Open in Washington and then what was the biggest title of her career until then, the Cincinnati Open.
The best and the most unmistakeable change that these coaches helped bring about was in her forehand. Across both Washington and Cincinnati, Gauff’s opponents still preferred to go to her forehand with the assumption that it would give them free points while continuing to being a liability for her.
Contrary to these expectations, Gauff’s reworked forehand side got her quite a significant result. This was her first win over Iga Swiatek in eight tries in what was her third match against her this season. Back in March, at the Dubai Open and then in June, at the French Open, Swiatek had continued to toy with Gauff posting straight set wins in both tournaments.
In the latter part of the season, the American changed the course of this blowing wind as she made the Pole play on her terms, from start to finish. Beyond the assuredness of results and tactical growth Gauff’s had, there’re still a few aspects in which she’s remained the same.
When Gauff first made herself known to the global tennis audience in 2019, after winning the Linz Open title that year as a 15-year-old, her maturity – as a person – couldn’t be missed. Cue to the present, four years later, she conducts herself with much more maturity, and responsibly than before.
There are no airs to her and she, as she herself put it, has the “perspective” about what she’s trying to do and how these achievements fit in the general scheme of life. In being who she is then, Coco Gauff’s staying unique.
To herself. In the aftermath of the US Open brilliance she’s had, it’s this uniqueness that’ll carry the Floridian through farther even as the cacophony of this success will continue to echo for a good while to come.
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