NEW YORK – Coco Gauff is seen as one of the favourites for the US Open title, but the 19-year-old says she is just trying to have fun in the face of dizzying expectations in New York.
The teenager eased into the third round on Wednesday with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Mirra Andreeva, the youngest player in the draw and three years Gauff’s junior.
Gauff has long been tipped for stardom since announcing herself to the world in 2019 with a scintillating run to the fourth round of Wimbledon as a 15-year-old qualifier.
She is dreaming of carrying on the legacy of 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams this fortnight, and is the tour’s form player after scooping titles in Washington and Cincinnati.
A run of 13 wins in 14 matches suggests Gauff is finally ready to deliver on the biggest stage of all, little over a year after being overwhelmed by Iga Swiatek in her first Grand Slam final in Paris.
Gauff lost 6-1, 6-3 to Swiatek in the 2022 French Open final, but finally ended the Pole’s dominance over her earlier this month in Cincinnati – halting a series of seven straight-sets losses.
She ascribes part of her recent success to staying more positive when the going gets tough, highlighting the resilience of Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic.
“The thing I’ve learned the most is how they’re able to handle the situations when they’re not playing their best tennis,” said Gauff.
“For instance, Carlos in Cincinnati, he was losing a set every match pretty much and he wasn’t playing his best, that was clear.
“The way that he was still smiling, for me, against Hubi Hurkacz and he was down a set and a break or something like that, I don’t know, he was down crazy… He was still smiling.
“I was, like, if he can smile, he’s No. 1 in the world and he has all this pressure… then I can do it in situations maybe where, most of the time now I’m not the underdog, but against, for example, like Iga or (Aryna) Sabalenka, those where I’m considered the underdog on paper, I can smile too,” she continued.
“I think I learned the most about their joy in matches and how I can transfer that. Because I have a lot of joy in me but I just seem to bottle it up when I play.
“Now I’m really just having fun and laughing and smiling, and I think it’s making tennis more enjoyable.”