Misc Tennis

‘As many as I can’ – Coco Gauff not putting number on Slam goal

'As many as I can' - Coco Gauff not putting number on Slam goal

NEW YORK — Now that Coco Gauff is a Grand Slam champion, she’s ready for stardom.

“100%,” she said, without a hint of hesitation. “That was the dream since I started this sport.”

She’s also eager.

“I know that this feeling is incredible and I want to experience it again,” the 19-year-old from Florida said in an interview with The Associated Press at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday night, a few hours after she defeated Aryna Sabalenka 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the U.S. Open final. “So I guess what’s next is trying to keep going even further.”

And what, in her mind, would that entail?

“To keep winning more of these,” she said with a laugh. “That would be the biggest goal. I’m not going to put a number (on) how many I want to win. But as many as I can.”

Anyone who would doubt Gauff clearly has not been paying attention. To the way she plays, to the way she can think her way through a match, to the way she handles herself the rest of the time.

It’s not easy to be in the spotlight from 15, her age when the transformation began from someone people in tennis knew about to someone the world knew about, thanks to a win over Venus Williams and a run to the fourth round at Wimbledon in her 2019 Grand Slam debut.

Maybe that fame, and accompanying expectations, will help navigate what’s to come.

She thinks so.

“I’m still me. … I don’t think I’ll ever (see) myself as a celebrity. I’m just a person who plays tennis, and millions of people like to watch me play tennis,” Gauff said. “But I think I’m going to be the same person after this. Yes, my life has changed. But I don’t think it’s going to affect how I approach my day-to-day life.”

Plenty of athletes say that. With Gauff, it’s easy to believe.

The first American teenager to triumph at Flushing Meadows since Serena Williams in 1999 is hardly the first tennis player to succeed before turning 20. Two who left New York as champs recently — Bianca Andreescu was 19 in 2019; Emma Raducanu was 18 in 2021 — have not recreated that sort of magic, thanks in part to injuries.

Gauff is a special talent, to be sure, and her health has never been an issue. What really should serve her well is the beyond-her-years maturity displayed in moments with a racket in her hand and, importantly, in those without one.

She is, in many ways, her sport’s first standout who is Gen Z, through and through. On Saturday, she derived motivation from negative comments on social media she read in the locker room before…

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