American teenager Coco Gauff defeats Sabalenka to win U.S. Open crown
Gauff praised the Williams sisters for paving the way for Black tennis players
American teenager Coco Gauff came from behind on Saturday to win the U.S. Open, her first Grand Slam title, defeating Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.
Gauff, 19, produced a gutsy performance on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 in 2 hours and 6 minutes, completing a fairytale transformation in her season's fortunes. The sixth seed from Florida had gone into the final as the underdog against the hard-hitting second seed Sabalenka, who will become world number one in next week's rankings.
It was an error-filled final match, with both players making a slew of mistakes in front of a star-studded record crowd of 28,143. But it was Gauff who held her nerve when it mattered most, and was able to seal a deserved victory. The win completed a remarkable turnaround for Gauff, who was left distraught after a first round exit at Wimbledon in July.
"It means so much to me," Gauff said after the match. "I feel like I'm a little bit in shock in this moment.”
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Gauff, the third American teenager to win the U.S. Open after Tracy Austin and Serena Williams, also used her victory speech to thank those who doubted her talent, and Black American women who lifted the title before her, such as the Williams sisters.
"It's crazy. I mean, they're the reason why I have this trophy today, to be honest," Gauff said. "They have allowed me to believe in this dream growing up. You know, there wasn't too many just Black tennis players dominating the sport. It was literally just them that I can remember when I was younger."
"Obviously more came because of their legacy. So it made the dream more believable. But all the things that they had to go through, they made it easier for someone like me to do this," she added.