Coco Gauff: The rising teenage tennis star transforms into a powerhouse in her first U.S. open final

Coco Gauff Sarah Stier/Getty Images
Coco Gauff Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Coco Gauff is omnipresent — at 19 the tennis pro has advanced to the U.S. Open's women's singles final, her first ever, with ease. The teenage tennis star has hit the fast-track lane to tennis powerhouse, joining her idols and tennis game-changing sister-duo Serena and Venus Williams.

On Saturday, Sept. 9 at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT Gauff plays Bulgarian tennis player Aryna Sabalenka in the finals for the silver trophy. Here's how the rising tennis superstar came to play her first U.S. Open final at 19:

Gauff's love of tennis started at a young age

Coming from a line of athletes (her parents were both Division One college athletes), Gauff began playing tennis at six. She was coached by former tennis pro, Jewel Peterson when she was seven and eight. "Coco is a coach's dream," Peterson said in an interview with Teen Vogue.


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By the time she was 10, she traveled to France to train with Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams' coach. She then transitioned into the former world No. 1 junior as she entered a series of prestigious tournaments throughout her teen years. At the 2017 US Open, Guaff made her junior Grand Slam debut and finished as a runner-up, officially making her the youngest girls' singles finalist in U.S. Open history at age 13.

While the teen star, has spent years of her adolescence perfecting her tennis game — she told Teen Vogue that she doesn't "want [to just] be known as a tennis player."

Wins and championships in Gauff's teenage career

Gauff's career-defining moments are all still in the works as she continues to stun audiences in every match. But some of her most interesting upsets were when Gauff entered the Wimbledon stage in 2019. The then 15-year-old Gauff, in her first Grand Slam singles match, shocked audiences when she won against Venus Williams in the first round, knocking out one of her personal tennis heroes.

The athlete was born a year after the Williams sisters competed against each other in consecutive grand slam finals all the while holding the top two ranking spots. After the match, Gauff and Williams shook hands and Gauff said she was "just telling her thank you for everything she's done for the sport. She's been an inspiration for many people." She then waved to the crowd, went to her chair put her head against her racket, and cried as she said a prayer.

Gauff reached her first career grand slam final at the French Open in 2022 at only 18, receiving the runner-up trophy. She's reached three grand slam finals overall, which include two in doubles. She reached the doubles final in 2020's U.S. Open with Caty McNally. She has won five Women's Tennis Association titles, including three in 2023. She is currently ranked as the world's No. 6 female tennis player.

Gauff's first U.S. Open final and its cultural significance

At 19, Gauff has reached some eye-catching career highs that do not show any signs of slowing down any time soon. This summer, Guaff became the first American teenager to make the U.S. Open finals in more than two decades — a title once held by superstar Serena Williams in 1999.

Throughout the tournament, the young player showed a level of patience, skill and drive. In her semi-final match that much was clear when four climate protesters delayed the game by 50 minutes because one protester glued his bare feet to the concrete floor. Gauff was in the lead by 1-0 in the second set when the match was halted. When the match returned, she went on to beat Karolina Muchova, advancing to the finals.

"I always speak about preaching about what you feel and what you believe in. It was done in a peaceful way, so I can't get too mad at it. Obviously, I don't want it to happen when I'm winning up 6-4, 1-0, and I wanted the momentum to keep going," said Gauff. "But hey, if that's what they felt they needed to do to get their voices heard, I can't really get upset at it."

Gauff's strength lies in her focus, presence and dedication — skills and values that are inherently ingrained in the athlete through her training and determination. Some would have cracked under the pressure of their match being halted in the middle of a hot streak but Gauff did not cower. It makes complete sense that her idols are the Williams sisters. She shows the same grit and power that was apparent the second the Williams sisters set foot onto a court as fast-rising young, iridescent Black girls, who knew the game of tennis like the back of their hands.

If Gauff wins the U.S. Open on Saturday, this will be her first grand slam title and it will be well-earned even if she's just 19. Either way, she's already made a name for herself.

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