If 2019 was the Wimbledon of Coco, this is the Summer of Coco.
Four years ago, Coco Gauff found fame in tennis and beyond when she became the youngest-ever Wimbledon qualifier at 15, then defeated living legend Venus Williams in the first round Entry into the round of sixteen.
On Tuesday, Gauff reached the semifinals of the US Open for the first time, making short work of Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko 6-0, 6-2 in a game that lasted just over an hour.
Gauff meets Karolina Muchova on Thursday for a chance to advance to her second Grand Slam final. Muchova, ranked No. 10 in the world, is a well-known opponent for Gauff, having played in Cincinnati just a few weeks ago.
Since his disappointing first-round elimination at Wimbledon in early July, Gauff, now 19, has been in full swing, winning 16 of 17 games. These include the championships at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati and the DC Open in Washington. Gauff’s only loss of that period came in the quarterfinals of the Montreal Open to her doubles partner (and daughter of Buffalo Bills owners Terry and Kim), Jessica Pegula.
To advance to the Cincinnati finals, Gauff defeated current world No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the semifinals, marking her first win over the Polish star in eight attempts (including the 2022 French Open final). She defeated Muchova in straight sets in the final and celebrated the biggest title of her career so far with a midfield pirouette and a small Milly Rock as she returned to her courtside chairs.
It sent her flying to Flushing Meadows quite a bit.
With her quarterfinal win over Ostapenko this week, Gauff became the first American teenager to reach the semifinals of the US Open since Serena Williams. But it’s not just the win that makes Gauff so popular; It’s also her clear love of the game and the moment.
And we’re not the only ones: Former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama were on hand to watch Gauff’s opening game and met her afterwards. Her boyfriend and Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler is a regular presence. Former NFL All-Pro Rob Gronkowski and pop star Justin Bieber and his wife Hailey have also attended Gauff’s games at this tournament.
But she admitted on Tuesday that her outward fun and getting energized from the crowd’s energy was something new to her.
“Honestly, I wish I had embraced the fun parts a little sooner,” she said. “The structure – not just that [WTA] Tour, but sport in general, especially individual sports – there’s not that one teammate who’s always cracking jokes, or the one teammate who cracks crap at the wrong moment to laugh at, and now I feel like I’ve got it all I have that kind of teammates myself and I enjoy it.
“I thought that to play and win you have to be extremely serious and focused, which is true, but you still have to enjoy it.”
Gauff is emerging as a young woman before our eyes, with the attitude she was praised for years ago at Wimbledon, now mixed with a dash of fun, as well as a clear intention to use her platform for far more than just the virtues praising a sport she started as a little girl and the opponents she faces.
Gauff gets honest on that last part: Her maternal grandmother, Yvonne Lee Odom, was the first black student to incorporate what was then Seacrest High School in Delray Beach, Florida in 1961. As Coco sees it, if her grandmother could endure the stares and the need to use adult toilets for fear that the students’ toilets would be too dangerous (Miss Yvonne, when she finally convinces the teachers to share her with her peers to go to the toilet, she can speak out against injustice.
“I think she’s the only — or one of the main reasons — why I use my platform the way I do and why I feel so comfortable speaking out,” Gauff said of her grandmother on Tuesday. “She had to deal with a lot of things, like racial injustice. She went ahead [does] And being so kind to everyone, regardless of their background, is something that inspires me.
“That’s why I always say I like to know everyone’s perspective, whether I agree with that or not. She’s always taught me to approach any situation with kindness and understanding, and I think going through what she’s been doing during that time is something for her, I think what I’m doing — posting a tweet or a Giving a speech – is so easy in comparison. So I have no problem doing the things I do. She always reminds me that I’m a human being first, not an athlete.”
A person who can take a big step towards her first Grand Slam singles title on Thursday under the bright lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium, amazingly still a teenager and yet one of the veterans.
We’ll wait and see if there’s a pirouette and Milly Rock celebration at the end of the game, with Coco Summer extending into Saturday afternoon for the women’s singles final.