Coco Gauff has pledged to keep on smiling as Cocomania is cranked up to fever pitch before she bids to reach her first US Open final. And she has revealed Andy Murray’s former coach is helping her to “enjoy” her tennis again.
The No.6 seed is the first American teenager to reach the semi-finals herd since 19-year-old Serena Williams in 2001. And with the retirement of the 23-time Grand Slam singles winner her last year, Gauff has become the new queen of Queens at her home Grand Slam watched by NBA and Hollywood stars.
In the city that never sleeps, there is no rest from the hype. Her former coach Patrick Patrick Mouratoglou declared: “She is ready for greatness.” Her potential first attracted global attention when the then 15-year-old beat Venus Williams at Wimbledon in 2019.
But after she lost in the first round in SW19, she appointed a new coaching team of veteran Brad Gilbert – who worked with Murray in 2006-07 – and Spaniard Pere Riba. And has won 16 out of 17 matches since – including titles in Washington and Cincinnati – before facing Czech No.10 seed and self-confessed “tough cookie” Karolina Muchova tonight.
“I wish I embraced the fun parts a little bit sooner,” said Gauff, 19. “I thought to play and win you have to be ultra serious and ultra focused but also you still have to enjoy it. I think the change is that I’m having more fun.
“One of the first things Braid said before he started coaching with me was you need to smile more. I was a little bit surprised. I started to think and I was like: Yeah, I do’. That’s something I’m trying to work on and obviously I think it’s helping my results.
“I think it’s just putting my life into perspective. At first I used to think negative things, like: ‘Why is there so much pressure, why is this so hard, blah, blah, blah?’ I realise it’s pressure but it’s not. There are people struggling to feed their families, people who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from, people who have to pay their bills. That’s real pressure, that’s real hardship, that’s real life. In a very privileged position, I’m getting paid to do what I love and getting support to do what I love.
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“I told myself: ‘Man, I should enjoy this. I’m having so much fun doing it. I should not think about the results, I’m living a very lucky life and I’m so blessed. I feel emotionally fresh.”
Ben Shelton, 20, joined the young American wave at the US Open by beating Frances Tiafoe to set up a Friday semi-final with Novak Djokovic. “It’s pretty cool for me to be a part of it,” he said. “I love to see American tennis going in a great direction.”
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