Mon, Dec 9, 2019

NEW YORK — Even though she fell to the reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka in the third round in Queens on Saturday, Cori “Coco” Gauff is still one of the great tennis stories of the summer. The 15-year-old American became the youngest player to reach the third round of singles at the US Open since Anna Kournikova in 1996. Last month, Gauff made a name for herself on the pro circuit by upsetting Venus Williams in straight sets at Wimbledon.

The former No. 1 juniors player made her Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour debut in March 2019 at the Miami Open. She received a wild card into the qualifying draw at Wimbledon, and became the youngest player to qualify for the main draw in the Open Era. Gauff has already went on some impressive runs while playing at Grand Slam tournaments in her young career:

  • Wimbledon: def. Venus Williams (44) 6-4, 6-4 in R1; def. Magdalena Rybarikova (139) 6-3, 6-3 in R2; def. Polona Hercog (60) 3-6, 7-6, 7-5 in R3; lost to Simona Halep (7) 3-6, 3-6 in Round of 16
  • US Open: def. Anastasia Potapova (72) 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in R1; def. Timea Babos (112) 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in R2; lost to Naomi Osaka (1) 6-3, 6-0 in R3

Prior to the blockbuster matchup between Osaka and Gauff, 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams called the pair’s showdown “the future of women’s tennis.” While Osaka, 21, is the world No. 1 player, and already a two-time Grand Slam champion, Gauff is still new to the game’s biggest tournaments, and going up against the toughest opponents. Gauff and Osaka, separated by six years, are two of tennis’ brightest young stars, and their matchup on Saturday may become one that fans see quite often at future Grand Slam championships.

At just 15, Gauff has an established team in her corner. Her parents, Corey and Candi, were both Division-1 college athletes. She’s been coached by Gerard Loglo at the New Generation Tennis Academy in Delray Beach, Florida and has trained with Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou at his Academy in France. Gauff is represented by Roger Federer’s Team8 management and agent, Tony Godsick. She’s even already picked up a few big-time endorsement deals, from New Balance, Barilla pasta and HEAD tennis.

With Gauff subject to professional tennis’ age eligibility rule, she is restricted to only 10 tournaments between ages 15 and 16. The limit increases to 12 events at 16-years-old, and 16 professional events at 17-years-old. As a result, she’ll finish out the rest of the singles season focusing on her game’s weaknesses — her forehand and serve — rather than more tournaments.

In the third round loss to Osaka, Gauff’s service game was wobbly, and she finished the match with seven double faults. She has the power (as evident by her match-high 119 mph first serve) but she’ll need to focus on upping her first and second serve winning percentages. This all goes without mentioning that Gauff can cover the court impressively. However, the youngster had too many forehand unforced errors.

“it was hard for me to take control of the points,” Gauff said after the loss. “She [Osaka] had way more winners than I did. It was hard to kind of control the rallies. But I think I’ll learn a lot from this match. She’s the No. 1 player in the world right now, so I know what I need to do to get to that level.”

Not only is the talent — in power and speed — certainly there, but Gauff’s focus and determination to improve is obvious.

For next season, if Gauff hopes to make more advancements in her game, she’ll need to work on reaching the level of consistency that the top-10 women’s players currently possess. With the improvements, Gauff could potentially see advancement past the third round at next year’s Grand Slam tournaments, and 2020 could be a big breakthrough year for the teenage talent.

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