Coco Gauff Gets First Grand Slam Title, Rallies Past Sabalenka For US Open Crown
“I feel like I’m a little bit in shock in this moment,” Gauff said. “That French Open loss was a heartbreak for me, but I realize that God puts you through tribulations and trials, and that makes this moment even sweeter than I could’ve imagined.
“I just knew that if I didn’t give it my all, I had no shot at winning.”
Sabalenka came out ahead in the first set with her power, go-for-broke game, but in the second Gauff dug in and started get even more balls back.
Gauff’s defense paid off. The extra balls got Sabalenka out of her game and she began to miss. And miss more and more.
With the crowd fully behind the American teen, Sabalenka turned in an error machine and Gauff pulled away.
In the third, Gauff got a quick break and that was it. Sabalenka had no answers as Gauff tracked down just about every ball that was hit in the court.
Sabalenka finished with 46 unforced errors with 27 off the forehand. Gauff had just 13 winner and 19 unforced. But the idea is the win the title and that’s what Gauff did: make Sabalenka overhit.
“I knew she was going to go out there swinging, and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to win this match the way I like to play,” Gauff said. “I don’t like to play the way that I played today. Running around the court, it’s fun, but, you it’s not as fun as hitting winners.
“I knew going into the match that was going to have to be the way I was going to have to play today against her.”
Gauff will move to a new career-high No. 3 ranking on Monday, and she returns to No. 1.
Under Brad Gilbert, Gauff finishes the North American hardcourt season 18-1 with three titles in D.C., Cincinnati and now the US Open.
At 19, Gauff is the youngest American to win the US Open since Serena Williams, 17, won in 1999. She’s also the first American to win a Slam since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open.
Sabalenka had dropped just one set en route and crushed Gauff at Indian Wells earlier in the year. And after the first set blowout, it looked like more pain was to come for Gauff.
“In first set I was dealing with my emotions quite good,” Sabalenka said afterwards. “I was focused on myself, not on the crowd or the way she move.
“She was moving just unbelievable today. But then the second set I start probably overthinking, and because of that I start kind of like losing my power. Then she start moving better. I start missing a lot of easy shots.”
Even with the loss, Sabalenka will get some consolation knowing she will be the new No. 1 on Monday and has a very good chance of finishing on top of the ranking for 2023.
“I’m definitely going for a drink tonight, if I’m allowed to say that,” said Sabalenka. “Yes, we are athletes, but sometimes we are drinking, but not much.
“Becoming a world No. 1, it’s a huge improvement and achievement,” she said. “I’m really proud of myself that all those years I have been working so hard helped me to become World No. 1.
“It’s good that I can say I have been world No. 1, but I really would like to finish the year as world No. 1. That’s why I’m still positive and I’m still motivated.”
Just 19 and currently the youngest Grand Slam champion on the planet, who knows what else is in store for Coco. It’s just the beginning.
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