'They are the reason I have this trophy today': After winning the US Open, Coco Gauff paid tribute on Saturday to sisters Venus and Serena Williams, her childhood idols who paved the way for players of color in the tennis world elite.
How did you experience this match? Coco Gauff: “It couldn't be more dramatic. After the first set, I went to the bathroom...and used it because I was nervous. While washing my hands, I sprayed my face and said to myself, come on, we have to start from scratch. I arrived to play this match like any other match. I wasn't that nervous. She was playing very good tennis and I knew this match would be a headache. So I’m really delighted with this result.”
Your defeat in the final at Roland-Garros in 2022 was “heartbreaking”, in your words. When did you regain all your motivation? "Probably after Roland-Garros this year (elimination in the quarters by Swiatek, editor's note). I couldn't bear the pressure of having to do it all over again, so I said to myself, I have to start from scratch. And then there was Wimbledon, and the defeat (in the first round) was very tough because I thought I was playing good tennis. Today I played as well as I could at the moment. She is very difficult to play because of her power, she forces you to be on your heels all the time. And then at one point the public came into play and from there, I knew I was going to bring it back (by showing the trophy)”.
And in this US Open, when did you start to believe in the title? "Not before last night (Friday the day before the final, editor's note). I thought about it, but I forced myself to get that thought out of my head, because that's what happened to me at Roland-Garros (in 2022). So I called my boyfriend and we talked until it was bedtime, 1am. When I lost the first set, I still felt like I was in the game and I thought it was time to give it my all and come what may. But if we go back further, at thirteen or fourteen years old, I played the US Open juniors, I watched the men's final and there, I saw myself there. And then there was that final at Roland-Garros in 2022 where I watched Iga lift the trophy, I didn't take my eyes off her because I wanted to know what it did to her. And today, I felt madness lifting the trophy myself.”
How have you handled the pressure of all the expectations that have been placed on you since you were 15? “It hasn't been easy. It's been a long road to get here. I wasn't a complete player and I don't think I still am. At 15, they wanted me to win a Grand Slam tournament. I felt like I had an age limit to win my first Grand Slam tournament and if I won after that it wouldn't be an accomplishment. It's crazy everything I've heard or read about myself, so I'm very happy to have managed to manage everything.
Venus and Serena Williams were your idols. How does it feel to have your name next to theirs on the trophy? “It’s crazy. They are the reason why I have this trophy today. They allowed me to believe in this dream growing up. There weren't many black players in top-level tennis. Thanks to their legacy, there are more of them now. So it's crazy and at the same time it's an honor to have my name next to theirs. And looking at (the cup), I realize that they won it a lot! (laughs)”