19-year-old American Cori “Coco” Gauff dismantled her quarterfinal opponent, Jelena Ostapenko, 6-0, 6-2 to advance to her first US Open semifinal.
This was Gauff’s most impressive showing all tournament and she’s one step closer to her first major title and saving tennis in America.
This is not some rant on American exceptionalism. I don’t subscribe to that belief.
But tennis is a sport that is growing in the U.S., particularly among minority communities. In a recent report, 38 percent of the tennis playing population in the U.S. are minorities.
To keep younger kids engaged, there needs to be someone they can look to for inspiration. This is where Gauff can help the sport.
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As she has said on numerous occasions, she wouldn’t be a tennis player if it wasn’t for Serena and Venus Williams. Now she has the benefit or burden, depending on your point of view, of carrying on that legacy. Giving young people of color, especially women, something to aspire to.
Coco Has Mass Fan Appeal
If Gauff can win this year’s US Open, it will make her even more of a household name. Diehard tennis fans know who she is. But she is the type of athlete that can crossover and attract the casual sports fan, much the way the Williams sisters did.
Around the grounds of the US Open, I’ve heard people all week say that Coco is their favorite player or they are “just here to see Coco.”
This isn’t to suggest Gauff will equal Serena’s mark of 23 Grand Slam singles titles or Venus’ seven Grand Slam titles. But Gauff winning the US Open will captivate many and catapult her to new heights.
American tennis has had the luxury of the Williams sisters winning titles from 1999 through 2020. Now that Serena’s retired and Venus is at the end of her career. It’s time for new faces to take the nation’s tennis fans forward.
That could be the 19-year-old Gauff, who became the first American teenager to reach the US Open semifinals since Serena did it in 2001.
“I mean, she’s the greatest player of all time. You know, I’m nothing close to that yet. I’m just really honored to be in the same sentence as her,” Gauff said about Serena after her quarterfinal win on Tuesday. “Like I said, I never take it for granted. She’s my idol. I think if you told me when I was younger that I would be in these same stat lines as her, I would freak out.”