Today, they grow up quickly, and Coco Gauff is no exception.
At the beginning of July, she was a tentative tennis teenager who might be leaving the sport. She was having trouble explaining how someone who had once appeared to be so precocious and destined for greatness could still be waiting for her big moment.
She is a U.S. Open finalist in September, the star of her home Grand Slam tournament, and the new American face of her sport.
On a warm and humid Thursday night at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Gauff, a 19-year-old prodigy from humid South Florida, defeated Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 7-5 to reach her first U.S. Open singles final. Gauff had been put to the test like never before by Muchova’s all-court game and the strangest of circumstances, but in the end, the night went her way in front of a crowd that kept exploding for her.
She stated in her interview in court, “Some of those points were so loud I don’t know if my ears are going to be OK.”
In the finals, Gauff will compete against Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka. Sabalenka, who will eventually become the No. 1 when the new rankings emerge one week from now, secured her spot in an upside down, three-set slugfest against Madison Keys, 0-6, 7-6 (1), 7-6 (10-5), that extended until almost 1 a.m. Keys served for the match at 5-4 in second set and was up a help break halfway through the third. However, Sabalenka’s erroneous power play proved just good enough for her to miss out on an all-American final.
Sabalenka praised Gauff as an “amazing player.” I’m going to fight for every point.”
Gauff was controlling her match when an environment fight right off the bat in the subsequent set created an almost 50-minute setback as the New York Police Division and security authorities battled to eliminate dissidents, one of whom had utilized a cement to stick his feet to the substantial in one of the upper levels of the arena.
At the hour of the interference, Gauff held a lead of 6-4, 1-0 and was playing as the need might have arisen to exploit an apparently close Muchova, who played with a dark pressure sleeve covering her right arm from her biceps to her wrist, and, she expressed, tape underneath the sleeve.
Gauff and Muchova left the court during the delay and attempted to remain loose in the locker room and warm-up area. Muchova had a massage and jogged lightly outside the locker room in the hallway. Gauff, who appeared to be on his own, went over to a worker at the United States Tennis Association and leaned over to look at photos of protesters that were going around social media. Later, she said that she woke up on Thursday morning anticipating a climate protest like the one that took place at Wimbledon this year and the French Open in 2022.
That may have been a foreshadowing. It could have been preparation by a player with a well-deserved reputation for always studying. Despite spending all of her high school years on the pro tour, she was able to get her diploma on time in the spring of last year. She celebrated with her family in Paris, won six matches at the French Open, and then lost to the world number one. 1, Iga Swiatek, in the final on a day when she felt overwhelmed.
A capacity crowd of nearly 24,000 people arrived ready to celebrate a new American tennis queen a year after watching Serena Williams play her final match, which marked the end of an era for American tennis. However, the delay on Thursday cut off early enthusiasm.
Gauff has developed into the most likely candidate to fill the void over the past four years, making her French Open debut last year and making her Wimbledon debut when she was just 15 years old. She had yet to advance past the U.S. Open quarterfinals, the tournament where the spotlight shines brighter on her than anywhere else, and her progress seemed to stall since then, especially on the big stages.
She stated, “I’m having way more fun than I was three years ago.”
This run and the championship, which is only one match away, seemed impossible two months ago, but Gauff demonstrated every reason why it suddenly is. She has had a dangerous serve, a backhand that is tough as nails, and the speed and athleticism that give her the best court coverage in the women’s game for a long time.
She has mastered the use of those tools over the past five weeks, stabilizing her adversary’s shaky forehand. She used both powerful and looping forehands against Muchova, as well as hammering and slicing serves into the corners. She charged the net after cutting backhands. She took charge of points and fought back with Muchova until the Czech star lost them. She got her most memorable match point on a padded drop shot.
Muchova praised Gauff, stating, “She’s moving well, she really gets that extra point back.” Therefore, you must concentrate and reach your goals. To truly observe her running, you must be present on the court. To finish it at the net or attempt to play it earlier, you must consider where to place the ball.
After taking a 5-1 lead, Gauff began to stumble midway through the first set, losing three games in a row as Muchova began to hit out and push Gauff back. As she tried to win the match at 5-3 in the second, she lost her serve once more.
It would require three more games; one more Muchova serve break; a further five match points; a 40-shot, lung-busting, nearly endless rally with a slew of shots that missed the net by inches; and ten-foot-high moonshine balls that floated above it.
Before and during that marathon point, Gauff had inklings. She stated that she was aware that such a point was coming, that she had the legs and lungs for it, and that it would just require patience. As the balls flew to and fro, she started to imagine that this point would change the match and in the event that she could win it, Muchova wouldn’t have the option to endure one more lengthy test on the following match point.
She stated, “She was definitely going to go for the winner or miss.” That’s what took place.
Gauff held on despite a last sharp serve from Muchova and a final long backhand.
New York has been hers since her most memorable match of the competition, and presently this evening, and a spot in the finals, was hers, as well.