Coco Gauff learns from her mistakes and meets expectations

MASON, Ohio — Newly crowned doubles No. 1 Coco Gauff woke up to a phone exploding with congratulatory messages. It was only then that it dawned on her that becoming the second youngest doubles No. 1 in Hologic WTA Tour history was a big deal.

“It’s pretty cool to be number 1 in anything,” said Gauff, 18, at Monday’s Western & Southern Open, where she will once again play both singles and doubles with Jessica Pegula. The duo is not only the top-ranked American in singles, they are also 1st in doubles in the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals.

“People overlook [doubles] Sometimes, but people forget, Serena has 23 slams in singles but 14 in doubles,” Gauff said. “That’s why she’s the best player because she dominates both sides of the game.”

Gauff has enjoyed a confident week at the National Bank Open, where she picked up two tough victories over Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and former No.2 Aryna Sabalenka to reach the quarterfinals. With back-to-back quarterfinals this summer, Gauff looks set to peak at the US Open.

“I think that’s what I need, more matches, because in a Grand Slam, very few people can play the whole match great for two weeks,” Gauff said. “You always have a bad sentence or something. I think having those matches under my belt helps.

“Even though I lost to Simona, I think that was the best tennis I played in Toronto this week, even though I had those wins. But I think that was a step in the right direction.”

With Gauff eyeing a return to the US Open, she seems better equipped to deal with the pressure pot that can be competitive at your home Slam. Gauff’s first foray into New York in 2019 wasn’t pleasant, but it was certainly memorable. Playing after breaking out at Wimbledon aged 15, Gauff says she went into the Open and believed in the hype surrounding her.

“That was so stupid of me to believe that because [Naomi Osaka] I had two Grand Slams at that point and I was 15 when I played my first US Open,” she said. “I think I can win the match, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I thought I should do something – didn’t think I could do it – I actually thought I was expected to do it.

“Now I just believe in it more than I expect because you have to be realistic. And I think nobody was really realistic back then.”

Asked about comments from Montreal’s Carlos Alcaraz last week that he couldn’t handle the pressure for the first time as a top player, Gauff had nothing but empathy and one simple piece of advice: look in the mirror.

“I’m sure Carlos and I will expect things from each other for the rest of our careers. You almost have to commit to it.

“I’ve never spoken to him personally about it, but watching him, I feel like he’s embracing it. I’ve learned a lot from watching him, believe it or not. I have him all the time watching him practice and seeing him play those games when he plays those big players I just love how he hit those shots so big.

“I literally said, ‘What would Carlos do?’ I’m just going to go big and do my recordings and make those decisions.”

“And then at the French Open, I said that to myself. I literally said, ‘What would Carlos do?’ “I’m just going to come out big and take my shots and make those decisions. I think Carlos will do a great job if he accepts it. So I’m sorry for Montreal, but I’m sure he will change it.” [immediately] because he has greatness in himself. There’s no denying that.”

Coping with the pressure has been a challenge for Gauff, but she’s the first to admit she’s made a major breakthrough this year. She was as relaxed as she’d ever been at the French Open and was rewarded with an excellent run to her first major final. She’s added power and purpose to her game, strengthening her forehand and serving under new coach Diego Moyano.

The success has continued ever since. After her run in Paris, she reached the Berlin semifinals.

“I feel like everyone knows I’m fast. I think sometimes I just go and just put the ball on the court because I know I can bring it down. That was my old mentality.

“But now I think I try to take my chances more and be more aggressive. because i play [the old] Weg would definitely bring me the quarterfinals or the fourth round at Slams. But to get to that final moment, you need to take care of those details. I think I’m starting to take care of those details.”

On Tuesday, 11th seeded Gauff will meet Marie Bouzkova in the round of 16 in Cincinnati.

Toronto: Gauff defeats Sabalenka 3:11, longest match of career

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