The Dawn of the Coco Gauff Era

Coco Gauff was brought to tears at the 2023 Australian Open following a fourth-round loss to Jeļena Ostapenko. A year later she was in danger of another early exit in the first Grand Slam tournament of the year. Unforced errors were piling up and Gauff was forced to rally to pull out a win by tiebreaker in the first set against Marta Kostyuk. Sometime around the two-and-a-half-hour mark, she got that Leroy glow and ended up running away with the match on the way to her first Aussie Open Semifinal. Gauff is the first women teenager to appear in consecutive Grand Slam semifinals in more than 15 years.

She committed 51 unforced errors in her quarterfinal victory. Fortunately, for Gauff, her opponent committed 56. A clean match this was not, and it was looking bleak for the 19-year-old American in the second set. She committed four unforced errors in the tiebreak to lose 7-3. When the broadcast came back from commercial, the 2023 U.S. Open Champion form of Gauff had remerged. She won the first five games, and took the set 6-2 to advance to the semis. In three of those games she did not lose a single point. A dominant finish to a spotty performance.
This is the type of win that shows the superstar flower is coming into full bloom. Mistakes have rattled Gauff in past tournaments. When she was upset in the first round at Wimbledon last year by Sofia Kenin, Gauff nearly doubled her unforced errors. Nobody can be on their game at all times, especially in a sport that involves returning a ball that has a diameter of less than three inches, and can be hit at more than 100 miles per hour, with a racket. The second-set tiebreaker could have buckled Gauff. However, she entered the 2024 Australian Open as a champion. She had already reached a plethora of age-related milestones. The most recent was a U.S. Open trophy which made her the first American teenager to win that event since Serena Williams in 1999. That was Gauff’s first-career Grand Slam victory.
Her third set in the 2023 Australian Open quarters was boss behavior. She did what all great athletes do when the contest has hung in the balance for too long. She Moss’d it. The final set was a wave that leaped from Gauff’s side of the court and crashed onto Kostyuk’s. A match that began as a head scratcher ended with a definitive finale.
One year later, in the place where Gauff suffered a bitter defeat, she returned to the same site and stared another one right in the eyes. Some tough points gradually turned into a long day. She was not at her best for much of the matchup, but managed to be the best when it was necessary. That is the sign of a young person who is truly coming into her own as a professional athlete. Glow like LeRoy, y’all should see this girl go.