Coco Gauff won the first Grand Slam title of her career in front of a home crowd as she came from behind to defeat soon-to-be world No 1 Aryna Sabalenka 2-6 6-3 6-2. Aged just 19, Gauff became the youngest American woman to lift the US Open trophy since Serena Williams in 1997. It was a statement performance from the sixth seed, who held her nerve to earn her first victory over a top 10 player from a set down.
Gauff capped off a stellar hard-court summer with the title she had been waiting for – a Grand Slam. The teenager is now 18-1 since her Wimbledon defeat, also picking up titles in Cincinnati and Washington. And with her triumph over Sabalenka, she also extended her winning streak to 12 matches.
The world No 6 and Sabalenka were both playing in their first final at the US Open. With the roof closed on Arthur Ashe Stadium, the cheers were deafening as the young American stepped out in front of the home crowd. But the second seed quickly silenced the fans as she broke Gauff to start the match, crushing the ball as she sealed the opening game with a backhand winner.
The match started see-sawing as the sixth seed broke back after a game that saw Sabalenka hit two double faults. The 25-year-old immediately regained her advantage but found herself facing two more break points, holding on in a game that lasted more than seven minutes.
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Momentum was back with the soon-to-be world No 1 as she broke the American again, drawing out errors from Gauff’s forehand and closing out the first set 6-2. The world No 6 took a quick off-court break but found herself in more trouble when she returned, going 15-40 down in the first game of the second set.
But the teenager managed to get herself on the board in a huge hold, winning four points in a row after some mistakes from Sabalenka. It proved to be a turning point as Gauff was first to pounce in the second set, breaking to lead 3-1 courtesy of the Belarusian’s fourth double fault.
The American crowd almost blew the closed roof off of Arthur Ashe Stadium in an epic rally with Sabalenka serving at 1-4 30-30 as Gauff sent a lob flying into the air that managed to catch the baseline but it was the world No 2 who won the point on a lob of her own. The one break was enough for the 19-year-old to get herself back into the match, roaring when she took the second set 6-3 to force a decider.
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Now well and truly settled into the match, Gauff took a stronghold on the match when she broke Sabalenka in the opening game of the first set with a smash winner as she rose to the occasion in the biggest match of her life. The American kept on rolling, getting a second break as more and more errors crept into the 25-year-old’s game.
Sabalenka stopped Gauff’s run of games at five, holding for 1-4 in the final set before calling the physio and receiving treatment on her left thigh. The 19-year-old kept herself in the zone by practising serves. But the medical time out seemed to have the desired effect for the second seed, who broke Gauff for the first time since the opening set.
The 19-year-old stayed fearless, showing the courage that got her to her second Grand Slam final as she immediately retrieved the double break to serve for the title. And it was the perfect finish, as Gauff served it out to love and won her biggest-ever title on a backhand winner.
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