It took 18-year-old Cori “Coco” Gauff nearly two hours, but she prevailed in her fourth-round match at the U.S. Open, 7-5, 7-5 over Zhang Shuai, to advance to her first quarterfinal appearance in New York. During the match she was channeling the hip-hop group City Girls.The teenager has played every one of her singles matches in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the largest in the world, and she looks poised to claim her first Grand Slam.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 4, 2022
After a tightly contested first set the clouds overhead started darkening and the tournament officials must have been checking the Doppler radar, because as the second set began the roof on Ashe began to close. The changing light impacted conditions for the first couple of games, as did the increased humidity. But after her win Gauff said open or closed didn’t matter.
“Well, the first two games, I think were tough because of the changing of the lighting, and it’s a lot more humid in here when the roof is closed,” Gauff said. “But, honestly, it doesn’t really matter, to be honest. The conditions felt the same other than the humidity. But I guess maybe the roof is closed is better for me if it’s more humid because I feel like with my fitness and training – I’m from Florida – so the hotter the better.”
Gauff has been compared to the iconic Serena Williams who played in her final U.S. Open this year. Comparison, as we know, is the thief of joy. It’s tough to live up to the greatness of Williams, whom Gauff has credited many times, along with Venus Williams, for inspiring her to dream big and play tennis.
Serena, THANK YOU. It is because of you I believe in this dream. The impact you’ve had on me goes beyond any words that can be put together and for that I say thank you, thank you, thank you, GOAT! pic.twitter.com/qeNZlC05WJ
— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) September 3, 2022
Earlier in the week Gauff said Serena being dominant made her believe she could do it too.
“Growing up I never thought that I was different because the No. 1 player in the world was somebody who looked like me,” Gauff said. “I feel like Serena taught me that. She never settled for less. I can’t remember a moment in her career or life that she settled for less. I think that’s something I took from. As a person, I’m growing into being an adult and learning how to handle things now with the media and tennis and everything, I’m trying to learn to not settle for less.”
While comparing Gauff to Serena is unfair, given the latter’s standing as greatest of all time, Gauff is as dogged a competitor as Williams. Gauff shows her emotions and lets you feel the moment with her. She’s also animated while on the court and feeds off the crowd. Someone on social media thought Gauff was giving a throat slash sign after an incredible rally, but the Florida native says she had a City Girls song stuck in her head.
“I had a city girls song stuck in my head the whole match. So I was saying PERIODT in my head “
lol you’re right… it wasn’t meant to come off any other way. I had a city girls song stuck in my head the whole match. So I was saying PERIODT in my head 😭
— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) September 4, 2022
Gauff was a finalist at the French Open this year, where she lost to world No. 1 Iga Swiatek. It was Gauff’s first Grand Slam final, and no doubt she took a lot from that match.
If dominating the women’s game and winning slams is what Gauff wants, which she obviously does, there is no time like the present.
There are three Grand Slam winners left in the draw, but none of them have claimed more than two slams, and none of them has won a U.S. Open.
Swiatek would be a potential finals opponent, and world No. 5 Ons Jabeur could be waiting in the semis. But before all of that, Gauff must handle the pressure of being an American in the quarterfinals. The pressure of a nation and at least 30,000 fans at Ashe wanting you to win.
But as tennis legend Billie Jean King says, “pressure is a privilege.”
Gauff will face Frenchwoman and world No. 17 Caroline Garcia, also a first-time quarterfinalist in New York, with a spot in the semifinals on the line.
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