NEW YORK—Is there any hotter topic in tennis right now than Cori "Coco" Gauff? Already one of the most recognizable names in the sport, the 15-year-old has exhibited a confidence—and a penchant for dramatic victories—that has attracted fans of all ages.
On Monday, her fame grew a little bit more when she fought past the hard-hitting Anastasia Potapova, all of 18 years old, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.
"Honestly, I just wanted to win so bad, I was trying to really dig deep," Gauff said。 "This is my first main draw [at the] US Open, I'm playing on Louis Armstrong, second biggest court。 After the first set, I was kind of like I have to reset, stop thinking about what would happen after the match, just think about what I need to do to win the second set。"
极速赛车双面盘A packed Louis Armstrong Stadium watched Gauff's every move, much like Wimbledon patron's during her transcendant fourth-round run. The enormous amount of attention is something she's still getting used to.
"I think it's going to have a huge ripple effect。 It already has," says Martin Blackman, general manager of USTA Player Development。 "I think her story is really captivating the imagination of millions of people, some of whom probably didn't watch tennis before。"
Gauff won her first US Open main-draw match on Tuesday, in three sets. (Getty Images)
Even though she's just 15, the American has been on the radar for a long time in the tennis world。 She reached the 2017 junior US Open final as a 13-year-old, and won the junior French Open a year later。 USTA coaches have been astute to her abilities from when she was just eight。
"She caught my eye, pretty much everybody's eye, the first time [we saw her]," says USTA Master Coach Consultant Jose Higueras. "She's different. What I see is how much better she can get. That's the exciting part."
It's easy to make comparisons of Gauff to Serena and Venus Williams, who both garnered worldwide fame as young teenagers. Gauff, like a seasoned pro, is just taking it just one match at a time. Her next one will be a big one: a night match on Armstrong, against Timea Babos. Yet the hype, as big as it already is, seems to only just be picking up speed.
"There's been a lot of talk about Coco," says U.S. Fed Cup captain Kathy Rinaldi. "We've always liked what we've seen. For her to really step up and play that high level tennis at the young age of 15, everybody was glued.
"She's just a tremendous young girl that's great for the sport。 I think everybody likes to watch the reactions and see the family dynamic and the team and see how it all works。 She created that excitement。"
Coco was one of the star attractions on Arthur Ashe Kids' Day. (Getty Images)
Gauff's father, Corey, remains her primary coach, and has been with her every step of the way during her short but swift journey to stardom.
"If you look at all the great players, there's always a force behind them," Higueras says。 "Somebody, grandmother, coach, father, mother。 It seems to me that her dad is the main force behind her。"
While Gauff has plenty of support in her corner, she's on her own when it comes to execution—both on the court and in the press room. She's handling it all with aplomb.
"The platform that I've been blessed again is really amazing," Gauff said. "The amount of people and kids especially that come up to me saying I inspire them is honestly better than any match I could win."
"I was watching an interview," Higueras says。 "She was saying how important it is for her to be a great tennis player, but it's even more important to be a good citizen。 She puts more importance on what happens off the court。
"Things like that together with the way she projects herself attracts people. We haven't seen anybody like that in a long time."
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