Coco Gauff #1 in Doubles
Doubles supremacy next step for ever-improving Coco Gauff
In 2019, when a 15-year-old black girl became the youngest player in the Open Era to reach the main draw at Wimbledon through qualifying, it caught the world’s attention; more so when she stunned Venus Williams in the main draw first round and went on a brilliant run to the fourth round.
That was how Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff announced herself, and instantly got tipped to be the “next Venus” and the “next Serena Williams”. Basically, the pressure of following in the footsteps of two of the greatest black women in the sport rested on her shoulders at such a young age.
Now 18, Gauff has just become the women’s doubles World No.1 following her National Bank Open doubles title win alongside fellow American Jessica Pegula. She becomes the second-youngest player in WTA history to reach the top of the doubles rankings after Martina Hingis (17) in 1998.
This is definitely not an overnight success, as Gauff has brilliantly combined her singles and doubles careers from the very start. Her first-ever WTA title came in doubles at the Washington Open in 2019, winning with best friend Caty McNally. Shortly after, she claimed her first singles title at the Linz Open, becoming the youngest WTA player to win a singles title since 2004.
The American has been accumulating doubles ranking points gradually, winning big doubles titles and making deep runs when she does not get the title. Reaching her first Grand Slam doubles final with McNally at the US Open last year, her second at this year’s French Open and capturing two WTA 1000 titles (Doha and Toronto) alongside Pegula have played a huge role in her ascension to the summit of the rankings.
Also, to become World No.1 in a field of established doubles players like Shuai Zhang, Barbora Krejcikova, Katerina Siniakova, Demi Schuurs, Kristina Mladenovic and more, is a pretty impressive feat.
At the moment, Gauff has won two singles titles and five doubles titles. She is ranked 12th in singles.
Not many players thrive in singles and doubles simultaneously. Some focus on singles, others focus solely on doubles. Some flourish in one while the other suffers. Some start out their careers playing majorly singles, then pick up doubles later. What Gauff is doing, and at such a young age, in both singles and doubles, is rather rare. The soon-to-be retired Serena Williams is one of those few players who balanced singles and doubles quite well, and it is no surprise that she is Gauff’s inspiration.
“It’s pretty cool to be No.1 in something,” Gauff said.
“People overlook doubles sometimes, but people forget Serena has 23 Slams in singles but she has 14 in doubles. That’s why she’s the greatest player, too, because she dominates both sides of the game.
“I grew up watching her. I mean, that’s the reason why I play tennis.”
At this year’s French Open, Gauff reached the finals in both singles and doubles and if it was not obvious before, that feat proved she can handle playing multiple matches on both sides and get good results at the same time. It also shows how versatile she can be. Interestingly, another side of her versatility is how strong she is on all surfaces. All this at 18 is an advantage, as she can build on it and improve as she grows older.
Gauff has always been under pressure to perform and many seem to forget how young she still is, due to how young she was when she broke out. She might not be the most dominant player on tour yet but she has the game, tenacity, talent and drive to get there. The weight of being the next big thing always hangs on her shoulders but the young woman has however handled it all well, considering her age. She has also never been one to shy away from discussing the effects of the expectations that have followed her since she came into the limelight.
“I think I’ve learnt a lot over the last three years,” Gauff said after playing her first Grand Slam singles final at Roland Garros in June.
“That moment—beating Venus at Wimbledon—made me believe that my dreams were closer to reality than it felt. It was definitely a lot to deal with. The biggest thing I’ve learnt is you don’t have to care about what other people expect from you. Just enjoy the moment. I wasn’t enjoying the moment then.
“People come up to me and say they support me regardless of whether I win or lose, and it almost brings me to tears, because when I was younger, even 15 or 16, I would think that people would only like me if I won.”
Gauff has truly gained a lot of fans and continues to do so with her consistency. Naturally, those expectations will always hang over her head, but her mature way of carrying herself has and will continue to be key as she tries to navigate her way in a tour full of talented players.
Going into the US Open, or any tournament these days, Gauff is surely one of the favorites. While it is her home Slam, it is ironically the only one where she is yet to advance past the third round in singles. But after a first Slam final this year and her general progress, it is more likely than ever that she gets her best result so far at Flushing Meadows this year.
For now, though. Gauff can bask in the euphoria of being doubles World No.1, and that could even spur her to do bigger things.
/ 10 months ago
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