Queens, New York City, New York —
Coco Gauff is a rising US tennis star. On Saturday, the 19-year-old won her first Grand Slam championship by beating Aryna Sabalenka. Gauff’s win makes her the youngest American to win a major tennis championship since 1999.
The US Open is one of the four most important tennis tournaments in the world – it’s known as a “Grand Slam” tournament. The US Open is the fourth Grand Slam tournament this year, and took place in New York City.
Sabalenka, who is from Belarus, played powerfully in the first set, and Gauff seemed to be struggling. Sabalenka won the first set 6-2.
But Gauff didn’t give up. She began to play better in the second set, scrambling for every ball. She wound up winning the second set 6-3, and tying things up.
The New York crowd supported Gauff loudly, and that seemed to help. It also helped that Sabalenka began making more and more mistakes. Gauff took the third set, 6-2.
As the match ended, Gauff dropped to the court in relief and joy. Later, she made her way into the stands to hug her parents.
With the win, Gauff became the youngest American, male or female, to win a Grand Slam championship since 1999. That’s when Serena Williams won the US Open at 17.
Gauff has been a rising star for a while. She first came to the attention of tennis fans when she beat tennis great Venus Williams at Wimbledon in 2019, when she was 15. As a young Black athlete, Serena and Venus Williams had always been her heroes.
Last year, for the first time, Gauff made it to the final of a Grand Slam tournament, the French Open. But she lost to Iga Swiatek.
Since then, Gauff has been working hard to improve her game. She has also focused on her mental game. After losing in the first round at Wimbledon this year, Gauff hired a new coach.
Going into the US Open, Gauff was expected to do well. But Sabalenka came into the tournament as the world’s #2 player.
Though Gauff is used to being in the spotlight, she was very aware of the crowd, and of the number of famous people who were watching the match. One of those people was Ex-US President Barack Obama, who later congratulated Gauff.
Gauff wasn’t just tested on the court. Like many pro athletes, she also had to face negative comments on social media. But she didn’t get upset by the comments. Instead, Gauff said that they actually helped her. “That just put the fire in me,” she said.
Gauff’s hard work has paid off. She has won 12 matches in a row, and is now ranked #3 in the world. This is the second tournament in a row where she has also won the doubles championship.
“Right now 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.”
Did You Know…?
Gauff earned $3 million for winning the US Open. That’s the same amount of prize money that the men’s champion gets. Fifty years ago, the US Open became the first major athletic contest to offer equal prize money to men and women.