NEW YORK — Somehow it always felt inevitable that 19-year-old Coco Gauff, anointed the “next great American tennis star” as a 15-year-old, would win her first Grand Slam title at the US Open. On Saturday, playing in only her second major final, she did just that, defeating No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 to become the youngest American woman to win in New York since 17-year-old Serena Williams won her first major here in 1999.
“It means so much to me,” Gauff said during the on-court trophy presentation. “My dad took me here to watch Venus and Serena compete and it’s really cool to be on this stage. Today was the first time I’ve ever seen my dad cry.”
So much has happened during the past two weeks, from a surprise fourth-round exit by the world No. 1 to a barefoot protester and a heatwave that prompted officials to alter the closed-roof policy.
Here are our round-by-round highlights from a memorable women’s draw.
First round: The slow burn
Gauff has been unstoppable since making an unexpected and disappointing first-round exit at Wimbledon in July. She won the two biggest titles of her career this summer and showed no signs of slowing down — until her opening-day match.
With former president and first lady Barack and Michelle Obama seated in the crowd, Gauff dropped the first set to Siegemund, the 35-year-old German qualifier who … took … her … time … between points and frustrated the Florida teen. In the second set, Gauff needed 25 minutes, 30 points and eight break-point opportunities to earn a break and turn the momentum — if not the speed of play — in her favor for good. In the third set, Gauff finally appealed to official Marijana Veljovic.
“She’s never ready when I’m serving,” Gauff said. “How is this fair? I’m going a normal speed. Ask any ref here. I’ve been quiet the whole match. Now it’s ridiculous. I don’t care what she’s doing on her serve, but [on] my serve, she has to be ready.” Veljovic finally issued a penalty to Siegemund, Gauff closed out the match and afterward, said the Obamas told her she handled herself well. “[Michelle] said it’s good to speak up for myself,” Gauff said. “I think she was happy that I spoke up for myself today.”