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End of teenage dreams: Gauff philosophical in defeat

  • Dan Imhoff

The teenage chapter of Coco Gauff’s career is over offering a chance at self-reflection following an Australian Open semifinal defeat to Aryna Sabalenka.

The fourth seed’s hopes of becoming the first woman since Naomi Osaka in 2021 to secure the US Open and Australian Open double were dashed 7-6(2) 6-4, but she was pragmatic about where her career was headed, even if she missed out on a small slice of history.

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Gauff was in esteemed company regardless.

Since 1990, only Jennifer Capriati, with 50, has more match wins at a major among US teenagers; Gauff finished level with Serena Williams on 49.

“I tend to be hard on myself, so I feel like today I was, like, dang, but I think looking back [on] overall this stage of my life, it was obviously a successful time,” Gauff said.

“I saw a stat that I think I'm up there with Serena and Capriati with the wins at Slams. I saw that and it made me feel, I don't know, I just feel like I look at the glass half empty, so I'm negative. 

“Then I looked at that stat and I'm like, they had great careers, so I'm in the right direction. I just have to remind myself of the journey and not so much of the moment."



“I am really proud of myself. I did want to win a Slam as a teenager, and I did that. Obviously today I was hoping to get number two, or at least give myself a chance to get number two. It didn't happen, but I feel like I'm there. So hopefully I can go only upwards from here.”

Gauff offered no excuses for the one-hour, 44-minute defeat to the defending champion, whom she surprised from a set and a break down at Arthur Ashe Stadium in their previous outing last September.

This was the first seeded player of AO 2024 the teenager had faced and despite it being her first night match of the tournament she said it had no bearing on the outcome. She has racked up more than enough marquee showdowns under lights in five years on tour.

“I feel like I played a little bit more aggressive this time,” she said. “So, US Open I felt like wasn't a great match for me. Yes, I won. I think I played better tonight.

“I wish I could have made more first serves. I think that was the difference. She had a higher first-serve percentage, and it's tough to also go for the second when you double-faulted a couple times… At the end of the day, it came down to a couple of points…

“I didn't feel like I played bad. I just felt there were certain points that I just didn't win, which I prefer this match over the last match that I played. So, it's tough with the result, but I'm trying to look at the positives.”

The youngest woman to reach the semifinals at Melbourne Park since Nicole Vaidisova 17 years ago, Gauff departs at a career-high ranking of world No.3.

A big-picture outlook is not always immediately forthcoming in the face of defeat, but this is no ordinary 19-year-old.

Gauff in action against Sabalenka

“I think for me the most important thing is to continue that, having fun,” she said. “Even though tonight I lost, it was still a great competitive match. You know, I watched these matches growing up and watching Serena and watching Sharapova lose these matches. 

“It seems like when you're in it, it feels like the end of the world. But then when you look at history, they didn't let one match define their career… I'm going to dwell on it tonight, but as Brad [Gilbert] told me as soon as the match was over, the sun is going to rise tomorrow and you have a new chance to live a good day.

“Tomorrow, I don't know, I'm going to try to go to the movies or something, be proud of myself.”