By David Villafranca
New York, Sep 9 (EFE).- American Coco Gauff, the great promise of women’s tennis aged only 19, defeated Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka and was crowned United States Open champion Saturday to win her first Grand Slam.
The No. 6 seed had a magnificent comeback against Sabalenka, who next week will be the new number one in the WTA, and took the title in Flushing Meadows (in addition to $3 million in prize money) by 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 in two hours and six minutes.
Called to be the heir to the sisters Serena and Venus Williams, the young African-American from Florida will rise to No. 3 in the world Monday after an unforgettable afternoon at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, which went completely out of its way to support her in this historic triumph.
In the midst of an extraordinary atmosphere and with the support of thousands of compatriots (including Hollywood and sports stars such as Diane Keaton, Kevin Durant and Spike Lee), the American fell to the ground crying after her victory and drew a heart with her hands.
She later went to hug her family and coach Brad Gilbert, who previously worked with legends like Andre Agassi.
In this final, she faced a fearsome rival, since Sabalenka, the great dominator of the women’s circuit this year, had reached the semifinals of the four Grand Slams and had won three tournaments.
Gauff, who will also be No. 1 in the doubles ranking on Monday along with her partner on the court Jessica Pegula, is the third American under 20 to win the US Open after Serena Williams and Tracy Austin.
She was also the youngest American to reach the New York finals since Serena Williams in 1999.
In addition to her, she removed the thorn in her side that she had been carrying since 2022, when she lost her first grand slam final by falling at Roland Garros against the Polish Iga Swiatek,
After her surprising elimination in the first round of the last edition of Wimbledon, where she started as seventh seed, Gauff has had an excellent summer with her victory in Washington, her first victory in a Masters 1,000 and now with her first ‘ big’ already in the display case.
Gauff, who also won Auckland at the beginning of the year (four victories in her four in the finals in 2023), has also won 12 games in a row, her best streak so far in a career that points to infinity.
Sabalenka had a painful start in the first set against Madison Keys, which forced her to seek an epic comeback in three sets.
This afternoon was the complete opposite, as the Belarusian had a powerful start, dominating with her right hands from the back of the court against a Gauff forced to defend herself and run non-stop.
Very aggressive, Sabalenka achieved a ‘break’ in the first game of the match against a Gauff who continued to give her a lot of effort, a lot of sacrifice and, above all, kilometers and kilometers traveling from side to side along the back of the court.
There was especially one point in the middle of the set that summarized the first set: Gauff, without a doubt one of the most athletic tennis players on the circuit, miraculously saved three shots in a row that seemed like winners and Sabalenka needed a fourth to finish it off.
Gauff returned the break of serve (2-2), but Sabalenka did not take her foot off the accelerator, added two more breaks and closed the first set in 40 minutes.
The Florida tennis player did not give up, as she reacted in the second set against a Sabalenka who continued to hit very hard but who was burdened by unforced errors (16 in that set compared to only seven for Gauff.)
Spurred on by the stands, Gauff regained confidence and hit excellent shots such as a cross and backhand pass that even Sabalenka herself applauded.
Gauff took the lead with a break to make it 3-1, except for a break option from Sabalenka in the next game and she scored directly to force the third set with the stands totally convinced of the comeback.
The euphoria of the stadium moved to the court, where Gauff began to melt Sabalenka who sank in the third set with 16 unforced errors.
Instead, a tremendously confident, very serious and totally focused Gauff went up to the net to finish off two breaks in a row (4-0) and clenched her fist knowing that she had glory within reach.
A break for medical assistance to Sabalenka did not faze Gauff, who no longer looked back to seal her first silverware in a major in an Arthur Ashe Stadium turned into a huge party. EFE