Tennis legend Billie Jean King is hopeful Coco Gauff’s US Open triumph can inspire the growth of the sport in America – just as Andy Murray’s Wimbledon success inspired Brits.
Arthur Ashe Stadium erupted with delight when Gauff won the first grand slam of her career in September. In a title run that showcased her dominance, resiliency and elite athleticism, the word No.3 illustrated why she is one of the planet’s best players. King, who presented Gauff with the US Open trophy, was delighted with the tennis star’s success at a milestone edition of the grand slam, as it celebrated 50 years since the formation of the WTA.
And Murray becoming the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years in 2013 – and Emma Raducanu shocking the world by winning the 2021 US Open – has done wonders for Great Britain and its tennis. After Gauff’s breakthrough, 79-year-old King hopes the States can follow the blueprint set by the UK. “It was fantastic,” King told Sky Sports. “We’ve all been very anxious for her to win a major. Her winning was very exciting. We were celebrating 50 years of equal prize money for women, so it was really appropriate that she won.
“She’s a really great kid. Although she’s not really a kid anymore, she’s starting to be an adult. She’s got a wonderful family and I was really happy for her. And it was great for the United States because when you have someone homegrown do well, like with Andy Murray for instance, [Emma] Raducanu, it helps get children into our sport. And that’s what I like; I want us to grow tennis.”
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Gauff became the first American teenager to win the US Open since Serena Williams in 1999. She joined the 23-time major winner as well as Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens as the only American women to have captured the grand slam since the start of the millennium.
King was speaking ahead of the Billie Jean Cup in November, where 12 countries will compete against each other in a bid to win the championship. This year’s event will take place in Seville, Spain and it is the 60th anniversary of the tournament previously known as the Federation Cup.
The 18-time grand slam singles winner described the event as sport’s ‘World Cup’ and hopes to see the tournament named in her honour continue for generations to come. “It’s the World Cup. Ilana [Kloss] and I were in Australia watching the soccer [Women’s World Cup] and it was so exciting,” King added.
“This is our 60th anniversary of originally the Federation Cup and now the Billie Jean King Cup, which we’ll be celebrating. We want the next 60 to be better than ever.” Gauff was due to be part of Team USA but she pulled out of the recently concluded Zhengzhou Open due to injury and confirmed she will also miss the team event.
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The USA has won the competition a record 18 times, but Switzerland enter this year’s tournament as the defending champions. When previewing the event, King was unable to predict a winner. “The USA and the Czech Republic are the top two winners and Spain were always tough [winning five times],” the tennis icon said.
“When I was captain of the US team, Spain were always beating us. Conchita Martinez, who is now our tournament director – she has been fantastic this whole year – and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, they beat us all the time. And then there’s so many other great countries. You never know who is going to win, because it’s a team event. It’s not quite the same as playing in a tournament, where I think you know, more than often, who’s going to win.”
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