The Ball is in Coco Gauff’s Court

State High tennis player Virginia Paterno prepares for a match.
State High tennis player Virginia Paterno prepares for a match.
Ellory Potter

The 2023 US Open has brought a new wave of tennis fans, and they all have their eyes on Coco Gauff. 

The 19-year-old American brought in impressive numbers during her run in the 2023 US Open. On Sept. 9, 2023, she defeated Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka with scores of 2-6, 6-3 and 6-2. This made her the first teenager to win the tournament since Serena Williams in 1999, as well as the first American to win since Sloane Stephens in 2017.

She started playing tennis at the age of six. Soon after, she began training under Serena Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, but her father was her main coach. Some of her impressive accolades in her youth career include winning the USTA Clay Court National 12-under title, taking second place at the US Open Girls Junior Championships, and winning the title of junior champion at the French Open. Her professional career started at only 15. In 2019, she rose to fame after winning against her idol Venus Williams at Wimbledon. Her performance there started the term “Cocomania”.

Virginia Paterno, sophomore tennis player, has been a longtime fan of Gauff.

“I’ve been a fan of Coco since she first appeared on tour when she was only 15,” Paterno said,“I thought how amazing it was that at such a young age she could manage all this pressure and the stress of being a professional athlete. So when she won, I was excited because she could represent the future of tennis.” 

Gauff has captured the attention of many, and not just tennis fans. Her final match brought a record-breaking 3.4 million viewers to ESPN — even more than the men’s final. This feat was the largest audience for a women’s Grand Slam final ever. Viewers went up by 92% from last year’s US Open. 

These numbers aren’t just to be attributed to Gauff’s skill. They exist not only because of that, but because of Gauff’s infectious personality. A video has recently gone viral of her at the US Open when she was 8-years-old. In the video, she dances to the song “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen. Little did young Coco know that 11 years later, she would be on the court instead of in the stands. Gauff was in shock as she received her trophy. In an interview with Joshua Hoyos for ABC News, she described her emotions. “That girl [would have been] jumping even higher and crazier if she knew this would happen. I think 10 years later, I don’t know how old I was in that video, I think nine. So 10 years later, carrying this is crazy. And I think the biggest thing I would tell her is keep dreaming and keep believing because they’re very possible and they’re very within reach.”

Fans find her attitude admirable, but more importantly they like the fact that she is relatable. Mayra Briggs, a senior on the State High tennis team, is inspired by Gauff.

“Gauff is an amazing player, with great sportsmanship and an awesome attitude. She is a great inspiration for young female athletes and tennis players, showing anything is possible,” Briggs said. “As a young woman, it is very inspiring to see other women doing great things and “making it big”.”

In addition, this year’s tournament marks 50 years of equal pay for the US Open. While receiving her $3 million reward, she thanked tennis great and activist Billie Jean King, saying “Thank you Billie for fighting for this.” King pushed for men and women to get equal rewards at tennis competitions back when she won the US Open in 1972. 

Now, in 2023, improvements have been made in the fight for sports equality but the playing field still isn’t level. Gauff has spoken proudly about her hopes for this important issue. In an interview at the Women’s Tennis Association’s 50th Anniversary Gala, Gauff explained her responsibility in this matter. “I’m sure they had no clue what the future was going to look like after starting the WTA, but it takes people like that to start change. And I think that’s what inspires me to speak out. I don’t think I’ll ever do anything that monumental, but I think every little bit, every voice matters.”

Gauff’s victory speech further cemented her into the hearts of fans. She gave a thank you to her doubters with a smile on her face. “I tried my best to carry this with grace and I’ve been doing my best. So honestly, to those who thought [they] were putting water on my fire, you’re really adding gas to it. And now I’m really burning so bright right now,” Gauff said. 

Now, she has joined the ranks of the women she once looked up to. In her press conference she mentioned tennis greats Althea Gibson, Serena and Venus Williams, Naomi Osaka and Sloane Stephens. “They paved the way for me to be here… I hope another girl can see this and believe they can do it and hopefully their name can be on this trophy too.” 

Gauff’s wishes have certainly come true already. Both Briggs and Paterno mentioned the ways in which they look up to Gauff.

“Gauff has taught me to not underestimate myself. When she stepped onto the court against Sabalenka, it was clear Sabalenka was very intimidating thanks to her height and even the way she grunts when hitting the ball. Despite these impressions, Gauff locked in, and was able to beat the #1 ranked women’s tennis player,” Briggs said.

Paterno echoed these sentiments. “Watching Coco play in the finals taught me some game theories I’ve never really had the confidence to try. Watching her also showed me how to stay focused and content when I’m struggling in a match.”

From dancing in the stands to holding a trophy on the court, one thing is for certain: Gauff has served her way to success. 

Leave a Comment
Donate to Lions' Digest
$185
$550
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of State College Area High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Lions' Digest
$185
$550
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All Lions' Digest Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *