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As Serena Williams exits US Open, Coco Gauff arrives and looks prepared to win everything | Opinion


NY She had recently been pushed in to the backhand alley twice, whenever a tiny bit wider. Zhang Shuai, the veteran who had somehow found herself losing a tennis match where she played spectacularly well, was spinning the net for Coco Gauff, trying desperately to generate enough pressure to obtain the 18-year old to crack.

Zhangs second backhand have been hit so well, with so much angle near to the line, that it completely swept Gauff off the court. At 0-15, with Gauff attempting to serve out a match with razor-thin margins for an area in the U.S. Open quarterfinals, that certain shot may have changed everything.

Zhang had setup the idea perfectly to win it with a forehand in to the open court, but Gauff wasnt having it. Sprinting the entire 36 feet from alley to alley, she got there in only plenty of time to stab the ball back play. Zhang, coming forward in anticipation of a brief ball, hit a perfectly-placed low angled volley tracking away as Gauff scrambled to obtain back the court.

She couldnt make it happen, could she? How could she possibly still win the idea? The answer, needless to say, is basically because Gauff isnt your normal 18-year old. Or your typical superstar. With a lunging backhand flick that dipped low to the bottom, catching Zhang so off-guard that she batted it in to the net, the power that has been drained out of this tournament when Serena Williams exited Friday came roaring back Sunday.

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It really is too clean, too neat, too perfect to claim that the torch has been transmitted from one American sporting legend to an adolescent who was raised idolizing her. But within Arthur Ashe Stadium, there’s little doubt about who’s capturing New Yorks imagination from here on out.

Just call her Coco.

When Gauff won that time a genuine pressure moment in a match where she faced danger at every turn she wagged her right finger like Dikembe Mutombo, screamed toward her player box and shook her fists, reveling in the quantity of nearly 24,000 full-throated fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Zhang could only cover her ears.

Minutes later, Gauff had completed a 7-5, 7-5 victory. Just as much as her greatness has seemed preordained since she made a shocking set you back the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2019 as a precocious 15-year old, Sunday carried lots of significance in her ascent.

For the very first time apart from the French Open, where in fact the slower clay surface plays to the strengths of her game, Gauff will play in a Grand Slam quarterfinal. Moreover than that, the standard of her play this week shows that actually winning this tournament isn’t definately not her grasp.

Personally i think like I acquired no free points for the reason that match. Same with her, I don’t believe I was offering any free points, she said. I’m super pleased with how I played. It had been mentally and physically a hardcore match. But I believe that shows all of the practice is coming together.

Gauffs toughest test may seriously Tuesday, where shell meet 17th-seeded Carolina Garcia of France.

Although 28-year old Garcia is five spots less than Gauff in the WTA rankings and contains advanced so far as a Grand Slam quarterfinal only one time in her career, she’s been the latest player in womens tennis since Wimbledon, winning the Poland Open and the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. On the way, Garcia has beaten four top-10 players including No. 1 Iga witek. And at the U.S. Open, Garcia hasnt even come near dropping a collection in her four matches. Even the truth that Gauff defeated Garcia in both meetings in the last year seems irrelevant right now.

I believe shes another player now, Gauff said.

But so is Gauff, who became the youngest American woman to attain the U.S. Open quarterfinals since 17-year old Melanie Oudin in 2009. Even though her run ends Tuesday, this is another major step toward what shes likely to become in this sport. It could have been the very best match shes ever played in a Grand Slam.

Against an opponent in Zhang who consistently pushed Gauff deep, with returns and powerful forehands that landed inches from the baseline, she needed to be tough. She needed to be precise. She had to methodically find her way to avoid it of trouble rather than surrender to the temptation of playing impossible shots. & most of most, she had to carry her nerve, particularly after Zhang finally broke through in the next set for a 5-3 lead.

I believe it’s definitely being mature, she said. I usually realize the significance of each point. Even sometimes in the event that you lose a collection, like, in the event that you keep coming back from 4-1 and present that person trouble, it mentally does something to another player.I simply try my far better fight for each point. I believe I was always fighting for each and every point, but I believe I’m carrying it out in a smarter way. I believe that just originates from learning from exactly the same mistake again and again and once more.

They are things Gauff might possibly not have been able to accomplish this past year, and maybe even some time ago. Sure, she made the French Open final this spring before losing decisively to Swiatek, but even then Gauffs overall game didn’t look as clean and powerful since it has in this U.S. Open.

Going back couple years, Gauffs backhand has been among the elite shots in womens tennis. But her forehand, which employs an extended, loopier motion that sometimes causes technical glitches, has often been a sore spot for opposing players to focus on.

Sunday, though, there is zero hesitancy in Gauffs forehand, even while Zhang pounded away at it with deep, penetrating groundstrokes. Gauff finished the match with just six unforced errors on the forehand and 10 winners, a count which could perfectly be sufficient to carry the U.S. Open trophy if she can replicate it some more times.

Beyond that, though, Gauff is now the natural heir to Williams because the rare player who embraces the pressure of Arthur Ashe Stadium and performs with the personality of a Broadway star. The big game, the swagger, the refusal to stop on any point its all there.

For reasons uknown I’m a lot more animated (here), she said. Here I cannot hear myself scream. Makes me wish to accomplish it more. I believe I’m feeding off the momentum a whole lot. I love it. I believe NY is offering a side of me that I haven’t had since i have was 15, so it is nice.

For a long time, Williams was the main one New York wished to come see because, if nothing else, you knew it had been going to be considered a show. Coco might not win as much Grand Slams as Serena, but as of this U.S. Open, she’s a chance to take her place because the biggest star, the must-see attraction in the activity.

And on Sunday, Gauff appeared as if she was ready for several of it like the winning.

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