Ranking sixth in a rarefied profession is impressive. Earning $9 million at the age of 19 is even more so.
But for tennis sensation Coco Gauff, who has yet to win a Grand Slam, it almost feels like a disappointment.
Through no fault of her own, Gauff rose to prominence by beating Venus Williams in straight sets at Wimbledon in 2019. She was just 15 at the time, and advancing to the fourth round, where she is falling to eventual champion Simona Halep, Gauff effectively cast herself as the successor to the Williams sisters.
It was four years ago.
Now, thanks to her recent victories in hard-court tournaments in Washington and Cincinnati, Gauff has regained the momentum that made her the sport’s brightest star of 2019. The next logical step for the native Atlanta would be a singles title at the World Championships. next US Open in Flushing, Queens.
Coco Gauff won all but one match in August while winning two singles titles
Gauff lifts the Rookwood Cup after beating Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic
“It’s just my dream,” Gauff said recently Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay about winning a Grand Slam. “You just do your best and your best to fight for that dream.”
Unfortunately for Gauff, that dream briefly felt like a nightmare. In 2020, she was certainly battling depression.
As she explained in an article for behind the racketthe issues were isolation and expectations.
“Throughout my life I’ve always been the youngest doing things which added hype I didn’t want,” Gauff wrote. “It added that pressure that I needed to do well and fast. Just before Wimbledon, around 2017/18, I struggled to know if this was really what I wanted. I still had the results, so that wasn’t the problem. I found myself not enjoying what I loved.
She tried to fill the void in her life with normal teenage things at the insistence of her parents. She attended her prom, for example, but the coronavirus pandemic ruined her prom plans and homeschooling only exacerbated her loneliness.
Gauff signs autographs and poses for selfies after practice at US Open championships
Gauff almost took a year off, like teenage tennis star Jennifer Capriati did in the mid-1990s before returning to the sport and winning three Grand Slams.
Instead, Gauff has stuck with tennis, for better or for worse.
“Choosing not to was obviously the right choice, but I was close to not going in that direction. I was just lost. I was confused and wondering too much if this was what I wanted or what other people were doing.
“It took me many moments of sitting, thinking and crying. I came out stronger and knowing myself better than ever.
The difference, she explained, was prioritizing herself.
“I realized that I had to start playing for myself and not for other people,” she said.
Results didn’t immediately improve for Gauff, who, like almost every other pro on the circuit, is striving to be more consistent.
Gauff upset Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2019 but is still in search of her first Grand Slam
A place in the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros 2021 was promising, as was the Roland-Garros final last year, but the first-round eliminations of the Australian Open 2022 and Wimbledon last month were obvious setbacks.
But now, instead of punishing himself for missed opportunities, Gauff is taking a long-term approach. She recognizes when she’s lacked aggression or focus, and rather than focusing on those mistakes, Gauff says she’s making corrections and moving on.
“There were definitely times when I feel like, looking back, maybe I could have implemented that (aggressive) style of play,” she said after her victory at the Cincinnati tournament. “But I don’t see it as ‘I wish I had done this, I wish I had done that.
“I think it’s just part of learning. Maybe these mistakes are the ones I needed to make to help me improve in the future.
Pere Riba and Brad Gilbert, Coco Gauff’s new trainers, watch her in Queens on Thursday
Gauff is now making tangible progress during the hard-court season with the help of his new full-time coach, Pere Riba, and temporary consultant, Brad Gilbert.
While Riba asked Gauff to tweak his footwork to improve his forehand, Gilbert focused on tempo and took more time to relax between points.
“The tempo was one of the main things, and that’s pretty basic advice,” Gauff said. The Associated Press. “Every tennis player, regardless of level, knows how important time is.
“But I think just having someone repeat it to you (was helpful)… After maybe losing two or three points in a row, maybe taking a full 25 seconds to reset, especially if it’s it is I who serve.”
Such a scenario played out in Washington earlier this month, when she lost consecutive points to two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Maria Sakkari in the final.
“I took the time to think about the serve I wanted to hit,” she said. “I realized in training that I perform better when I take time between points.”
The results were impressive to say the least. In her win in Washington, Gauff lost just 19 games as she faced three of the world’s top 20 players in Sakkari, defending champion Liudmila Samsonova and Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic.
“When you tell her something, she analyzes it and she gets on with it,” Riga told the AP. “She is ready to make changes. It gives me a lot of confidence.
“I see things developing in a really positive way after watching her make some changes in these few weeks.”
But perhaps the best indicator of Gauff’s improvement is that of her closest rivals.
Coco Gauff kisses the trophy after beating Maria Sakkari of Greece in Washington
Sakkari described her as a “top player”, adding that “there was all this hype for a reason”.
“She really forces you to win the match,” Gauff’s doubles partner Jessica Pegula said recently. “She’s not going to give you a lot of free points.”
And for a 19-year-old, who admittedly questioned her own future in the sport a few years ago, that level of mental toughness is a sure sign of progress.
“For me, the goal is to win,” she said. People. “That’s the ultimate goal. Obviously there are minor issues along the way, and I think the biggest thing is trying to make sure I control matches on my side of the pitch, and I think that will help me achieve that goal. ultimate.