Coco Gauff: Why the US Open champion is more than a tennis player as she turns 20 at Indian Wells

Why the US Open champion Coco Gauff is more than a tennis player as she turns 20-years-old at Indian Wells.

Gauff has already etched her name in American tennis folklore and all before turning 20 on Wednesday.

She won her final match as a teenager when she defeated Italy’s Lucia Bronzetti to advance to the fourth-round of Indian Wells in California where she faces Belgian Elise Mertens on her birthday – live on Sky Sports Tennis.

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Gauff became the teenager with most WTA 1000 wins

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Wednesday 13th March 5:30pm

The Florida native has enjoyed a sensation rise since winning the junior girls’ title at the French Open at the age of 14.

She then hit the big time a year later at Wimbledon where she became the youngest ever player to qualify for the main draw at 15 years and three months.

Gauff scored a huge upset against five-time champion Venus Williams, before going on to reach the fourth round at the All England Club.

“Age is just a number,” she said. “Hopefully, I can close out this chapter of my life. I did everything I wanted to do.

“I’m going to be out here for at least another 10 years.”

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Martina Navratilova praised Gauff for her performance on the court and the impact she is having beyond the game of tennis

Gauff progressed steadily over the next couple of years, winning lower-tier tournaments in Linz and Parma, in 2019 and 2021 respectively, and then making her first major final at the French Open in 2022 where she was swept aside by world No 1 Iga Swiatek.

“Iga was just too good,” said Gauff. “It’s one of those matches that, yes, I, in some moments, could have played better. But she really didn’t give me anything. Every time I thought I hit a good ball, it wasn’t.”

Despite her tears, Gauff was adamant she will learn from the experience and continue to improve. “Tomorrow, or even tonight, we’re going to play cards again and we are going to laugh and we are going to be fine.”

Her talent and promise finally came to fruition overt a sizzling span of six weeks last year when Gauff won her first WTA 500 title in Washington, her first 1000 in Cincinnati and, ultimately, her first Grand Slam singles title at the US Open, becoming the first American teenager male or female to win the competition since Serena Williams in 1999.

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Gauff says it ‘means so much’ to lift the US Open trophy in front of her home crowd, and thanks her doubters for giving her extra motivation.

Gauff’s crowning moment came in a three-set victory over Aryna Sabalenka to get her hands on a first Grand Slam title.

She went on to deliver one of the greatest winning speeches in New York – silencing doubters who said a major title would never come.

“I just want to thank all the people who didn’t believe in me,” Gauff said. “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, but three weeks later, I’m here with this trophy.

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

Gauff followed in the footsteps of Althea Gibson, Serena and Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and Naomi Osaka to become the latest Black woman to win the title in New York, but she was out to continue the legacy.

“I remember Sloane winning this trophy in 2017 and I lost in the juniors. It was an inspiring moment for me to see her win because I grew up watching her and I have known Sloane since I was 10-years-old,” said Gauff.

“Obviously Serena and Venus, words can’t describe what they meant to me. I hope that I’m a continuation of a legacy. I hope another girl can see this and believe they can do it and hopefully their name can be on this trophy too.”

Her grandmother was the first Black student at her high school in Delray Beach in the early 1960s, and Gauff often takes to social media to offer her stance on societal issues. She remains determined to use her platform for change.

“I just feel like I have to take a strong stance,” Gauff said. “The biggest thing is that you’re more than whatever social construct puts you in – I’m more than a tennis player. Growing up in tennis, coming from the lineage like Billie Jean King, Venus Williams, Althea Gibson, I feel like this sport is very popular in advocating for equality and justice.

“I feel like every figure in history that we studied, that we considered great people, there were a lot of people during that time that considered them a terrible person. My goal is to tell my grandkids that I was on the right side of history.”

Gauff has since become world’s highest-paid female athletes, having amassed an estimated $21.7m (£17m) in both on and off-court earnings, starred in an ad for movie ‘The Marvels’ and has deals with Baker Tilly, Bose and UPS.

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Gauff revealed her pride at being on the cover of the iconic Vogue magazine

The April cover of iconic fashion magazine Vogue features Gauff in a dazzling gold dress, shot by famous photographer Annie Leibovitz

What would she tell that 13-year-old, the local tennis phenom?

“I wouldn’t change anything,” Gauff said. “I guess I would just tell myself just to relax a little bit more. That’s probably going to be the thing I need to tell myself my whole life.”

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Tim Henman analyses Gauff’s sensational US Open victory and assesses the impact she can have on the sport

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