The latest Black American woman to make history on one of the most revered tennis courts in the world, Coco Gauff won the U.S. Open women’s final on Saturday, defeating Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka 6-2 in the last set.
With her upset victory at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows, New York City, Gauff joins legendary Black American women’s tennis players Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Althea Gibson in the history books. Williams’ final tennis match and retirement from the sport at the same championships the previous year created a huge vacuum in US tennis. Therefore, when Gauff succeeded the 23-time grand slam champion 12 months later and four years after making a dramatic Wimbledon debut, it seemed only fitting that the 19 year old would use the loudest and most partisan audience on the tour to win her first grand slam title.
The American supporters gave it their all to encourage their countrywoman and, after about an hour, their encouragement started to bear fruit. Each victorious game garnered such a full throated response after a revived Gauff started to rein in Sabalenka’s early advantage that the sound had an almost physical force. Although the initial exchanges might have been shaky, Gauff finally took control of the match and showed the qualities that have long distinguished her as a future legend. The match finally took off after a dreadful first set for Gauff and the American eventually came out on top 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.
After a very consistent year in which she won the Australian Open and advanced to the semifinals at Wimbledon and Paris, Aryna Sabalenka will take over as the new world number one on Monday. Though the 25 year old Belarussian had herself in position to win her second grand slam championship, she folded as Gauff won her first. Her new position at the top of women’s tennis, therefore, may be of little comfort to her.
Speaking after the trophy presentation, Coco Gauff expressed her shock and gratitude at winning the U.S. Open, while heaping praise on her opponent.
Oh my goodness, it means so much to me! I feel a little in shock at the moment, the French Open loss was a heartbreak. It makes this moment even more sweet than I can imagine. I give it my all and whatever happens happens. I’m so thankful for this moment, I don’t have any words for it. I knew if I didn’t give it my all I had no shot at winning. Aryna was incredible – congrats on the No.1 ranking – I always tell my team you’re incredible behind the scenes.Coco Gauff
Congratulations to Coco Gauff on her first major tennis championship. What’s next for the 19 year old American? Can Sabalenka bounce back and repeat in Australia next year? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!