Coco Gauff at the time of confirmation?

Coco Gauff in her quarter-final against Latvian Jelena Ostapenko at the US Open on September 5, 2023.

Coco Gauff is no master of break-ins and hold-ups. The 19-year-old American has rightly invited herself to the top table of world tennis since her birth, at 15, on the lawn of Wimbledon, where you don’t mess around with the entry codes. But, since the start of the summer tour across the Atlantic, the 6e world breaks down the locks one after the other.

After lifting the trophy in Washington on August 6, his first in the WTA 500, the child prodigy of American tennis triumphed in the category above. In Cincinnati, on August 20, she offered herself her first Masters 1000 by beating the Czech Karolina Muchova in the final, whom she finds on Friday September 8 in the semi-finals of the US Open, the last meeting of the Grand Slam of the season.

In Ohio, for the first time in eight confrontations, Gauff finally found the parade against world number 1 Iga Swiatek. She got rid of the Polish semi-finals (7-6, 3-6, 6-4), from whom she had never taken a single set. A victory that partly sounded like a click. “It gives me confidence and shows that I can compete at this level. I may not beat her every time now, but this victory proved to me that I could do it, she commented without lapsing into overconfidence. I don’t think I’m close to the highest potential of my game, because there are still plenty of things to improve. » Starting with her forehand, where the shoe pinches the most in this stubborn young woman, who has been saying since she was 6 years old that she wants to become the best tennis player of all time.

A questioning

After her final at Roland-Garros in 2022, the one whose career is managed by Team 8 – the management agency of Roger Federer and his historic agent Tony Godsick – failed to cross the final level leading to the Grail , with a succession of disappointments: quarter-final at the US Open 2022, round of 16 in Melbourne at the end of January, again quarter-final on Parisian clay in the spring, before an entry defeat at Wimbledon, in July.

Pricked in her pride, Gauff questioned herself by making changes in her team. The Spaniard Pere Riba arrived at the end of June at his side. At the end of July, she then called on a familiar face on the circuit in the person of Brad Gilbert, former coach of Andre Agi and Andy Rod, the last representative (male) of the star-spangled banner to have triumphed in a Major. It was at the US Open in 2003.

Twenty years ago, Rod had also hired him during the summer. Their collaboration had immediately been fruitful with a Montreal-Cincinnati-US Open treble, then the place of world number 1 at the end of the season. “I had offers in recent years, but I was looking for the right player or the right player. I was seriously considering the idea of ​​coaching again, but first and foremost I was considering [de le faire auprès d’]a young American”explained, the 1er september, on the US Open website the 62-year-old coach who came out of retirement, known for his bestseller Winning Ugly (“to win ugly”, in French), published in 1994.

Comparisons with Serena Williams

Since Brad Gilbert has been at her bedside, Gauff seems to have turned a corner, she who until then had only won in WTA 250 tournaments (Linz, Parma, Auckland). “It’s not so much the content of the speech that I’m given that has changed, it’s more the way it is delivered to me. And hearing it from his mouth helps me a lot”says the 6e World Cup, which has won 14 of its last 15 games (ongoing streak). Tuesday September 5, in barely an hour, pushed by some 20,000 American supporters of the vertiginous Arthur-Ashe court, the American crushed the Latvian Jelena Ostapenko (faller of Swiatek in the eighth) in two sets 6-0, 6- 2, with a first run dispatched in twenty minutes.

Gauff thus offered her first semi-final in New York (her second in a Grand Slam), following in the footsteps of Serena Williams, last teenager American to be invited to the last four. Since the start of her career, the youngest has not been able to avoid comparison with her glorious elder, retired for twelve months. “We are both black American tennis players, who grew up in the same area, who were coached by their father… I don’t mind people ociating us. Either way, becoming the next Serena is impossible. No one will ever be Serena, even winning 23 Grand Slams. I’m just gonna be me”, insisted Gauff, on August 25, in a interview at The magazine team.

It’s a safe bet that the comparison would be on everyone’s lips again if she were to triumph in the US Open final on Saturday.

Elizabeth Pineau

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