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US Open 2023 final: How Coco Gauff fulfilled her potential in New York

Shortly after she won the US Open title, there was a video doing the rounds on social media of Coco Gauff dancing on Arthur Ashe Stadium as an excited eight-year-old.

Eleven years later, the American teenager was standing in the same stadium – this time on the court lifting a Grand Slam trophy like she had long dreamed.

Gauff burst on to the scene as a 15-year-old phenomenon at Wimbledon in 2019, now fulfilling her date with the destiny many had predicted ever since – and with the charisma she showed even then.

After beating Aryna Sabalenka 2-6 6-3 6-2 in Saturday’s New York showpiece, she took the microphone to deliver an accomplished and heartfelt speech that covered every base.

She spilled the secret of her dad Corey crying in celebration – “he thinks he is hard” – and also threw shade on the people who doubted whether she would live up to the “hype”.

“I want to say ‘thank you’ to the people who didn’t believe in me,” she said.

“I tried my best to carry on with with grace but, honestly, to those who thought you were putting water on my fire, you were really adding gas to it.

“I’m burning so bright right now.”

Without any written notes in front of her, she also thanked her parents, grandparents, coaches and the crowd and spoke of the importance of her faith.

Crediting Billie Jean King, the pioneering major champion who fought for gender equality in the sport, for enabling her to take home a $3m prize pot was another endearing touch.

Gauff had even called one of her brothers while waiting for the trophy ceremony but had to hang up because the noise in the stadium was “so loud” and “hurting” her ears.

She was prepared for this moment and is also ready for whatever comes next.

“I feel like this is a big achievement, but honestly I feel like I’ve been so used to being in the public eye since I was basically 15 years old in high school,” she said.

“I’m sure it might be a much bigger scale now because of this achievement, but I’m ready. I embrace it.

“I think the pressure has been taken off a little bit and I still am hungry for more.”

Not only has Gauff become a leading light in the sport because of her tennis ability, but also because of her engaging personality.

In simple terms, she has the one ingredient you can’t teach or learn: star quality.

And she uses her voice – and uses it powerfully. She has also spoken out strongly in the past about racial injustice and gun crime in the United States.

“She’s well beyond her years,” Jarmere Jenkins, part of Gauff’s new-look coaching team, told BBC Sport.

“For a 19-year-old, how grounded she is, how well spoken she is, it’s incredible. I love how she’s an advocate.

“Me at 19? I’m so glad I didn’t have the spotlight. I wouldn’t know how to handle it.”


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