Coco Gauff says the 'only regret' of her career so far is not playing Serena Williams

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Coco Gauff's battle to the finals of the U.S. Open has many fans thinking of Serena Williams' legacy.

Gauff, 19, is the youngest American player to make it to the final match since Serena Williams, then 17, in 1999. She will play Aryna Sabalenka Sept. 9 in the final match of the women's singles tournament.

On Sept. 7, Gauff advanced to her first U.S. Open final after defeating Karolína Muchová in straight sets. Fresh off her victory, Gauff spoke to ESPN about Serena Williams and how the 41-year-old tennis star will always be the greatest of all time, aka the "GOAT."

US Open Tennis Championship 2023 (Tim Clayton - Corbis / Corbis via Getty Images)
US Open Tennis Championship 2023 (Tim Clayton - Corbis / Corbis via Getty Images)

“Serena is Serena. She’s the GOAT," she said. "I’d hope to do half of what she did. But I’m not going to compare myself to her. She's someone that I look up to."

While she pushed back against the notion of "taking the torch," Gauff also revealed that she regrets that she never competed against Serena Williams, who gave the final bow of her solo career at last year's U.S. Open after losing in the 3rd round.

"Being in the same stat line as her means a lot to me," Gauff said after her latest victory. "She’s my idol and I think the only regret I’ll have for the rest of my life is not being able to play her. There were so many tournaments where if we won an extra round or didn’t lose, I would’ve played her. But I’m still happy to just be a product of her legacy and be out here."

On X (formerly known as Twitter), attorney Ben Crump said the two players represent a legacy of "Black Excellence" in tennis.

In another tweet, a fan said they are happy to have Gauff on the field after Serena Williams announced her retirement.

"Serena Williams retired and now we have Coco Gauff," they said.

Both Gauff and Serena Williams have credited their dads in particular for introducing them to the sport and for refining their skills, including how they advocate for themselves during games.

“I think her whole story — the Williams sisters’ story ... with Mr. Williams and all that he’s done for both of them — inspired my dad to continue to coach me and help me even though he had not really much tennis experience,” Gauff told Tennis Majors in an August 2022 interview. “But he was like, ‘If Mr. Williams can do it, then I can.’”

As for their ability to advocate for themselves, Gauff notably pleaded with the umpire during her first round match against Laura Siegemund to enforce guidelines that regulate the pace of the game.

Gauff cited metrics, such as Siegemund conferring with the umpire when it was Gauff’s turn to serve and the umpire's delay in calling points, as evidence for why she thought the officiating was unfair.

Serena Williams had a similar debate of fairness with the umpire of the 2018 U.S. Open final match.

With Gauff going for her first Grand Slam tournament win, it's clear that the future of tennis looks bright for Black Americans after Serena Williams announced her retirement. Gauff is among several Black Americans who advanced far in the U.S. Open, including Madison Keys, Frances Tiafoe and Ben Shelton.

Read on for what Serena Williams and Gauff have said about the other.

What Coco Gauff has said about Serena Williams

In an August interview with People, Gauff talked about her experience meeting Venus and Serena Williams and Roger Federer at professional tournaments when she was just 15.

In the interview, she called the trio her "idols." But despite all the comparisons that fans have made between her and Serena Williams, she said she's not trying to be like the athlete.

"(I'm) not trying to fulfill those footsteps whatsoever," she told People in another interview. “But obviously I do want to be the best version of myself and be the best that I can be.”

“I don’t think anybody will [take Serena’s mantle] because she’s just one of a kind,” Gauff added. “But I will try my best to be the best Coco.”

Digital trade fair OMR (picture alliance / dpa/picture alliance via Getty I)
Digital trade fair OMR (picture alliance / dpa/picture alliance via Getty I)

After Serena Williams announced her retirement, Gauff told Tennis Majors in an August 2022 interview that she saw it coming.

“(It’s) not really shocking, but almost shocking news because she’s just been playing forever — my whole life," she said. "(I’m) a little bit sad because I have always wanted to play her. So I’m hoping that my draw in Cincinnati or (the) U.S. Open or even here can work out so we can play each other. Because that’s just one of my goals.”

Gauff noted that the Williams sisters have inspired her greatly. She said Serena Williams is part of "the reason why I play tennis," and since the sport is largely white, she looked to Venus and Serena Williams.

"It made me believe that I could dominate, too," she said.

Gauff added that she doesn't believe the legacy Serena Williams left behind is something that "any other player can probably touch."

“I think that the legacy that she will continue to leave throughout her life is something that can inspire many more generations," she noted.

What Serena Williams has said about Coco Gauff

While Gauff has sung her praises for Serena Williams, the mom of two has done the same for Gauff.

"She's just impressive all around," Serena Williams said in a 2020 press conference at the Australian Open. "From her personality to the way she plays. I think it's all just super impressive."

"I was nowhere near her level at 15 either on the court or off the court, not even close. I know kids are growing up differently nowadays so I'm not sure," she laughed. "But I was nowhere near as smart and eloquent as she is so it's just nice to see."

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