Issue #1 | Coco Gauff: Hot Girl Summer

Issue #1 | Coco Gauff: Hot Girl Summer

Photo Credits: Garrett Elwood/USTA

Completely unaware of how my back had stiffened up from what one could arguably call “running” a 10K earlier in the morning, I stood up much too quickly and much too confidently shouted at the television, clapping after every word, “Talk to ‘em Coco, LET EM' KNOW!” My wife sat across from me, her eyes glued to the television, very much unphased, let alone amused by my outburst. I put my hand on my back and let out a huge sigh as I slowly lowered myself, with the skill of a crane operator, back into the comfy replica Eames chair in our charming Santa Barbara AirBnB. My eyes still welled up at the post match scenes of watching nineteen-year-old Coco Gauff win the U.S. Open, her first Grand Slam title, defeating the soon to be world number one, Aryna Sabalenka, and gloriously capping a stunning run of the U.S. hardcourt season.

Gauff, after dropping the first set, regrouped into an unstoppable defensive force, simply returning the bombs being hit at her with the calm of a Buddhist monk. Fistpumping to her box with confidence, even after missing shots mere mortals could never get a racquet on. Gauff put on a defensive masterclass, dictating points, forcing her opponent to bounce to her rhythm, moving Sabalenka front, back, side to side as if Gauff was hitting switches on a '64 SuperSport. With every defensive reply from Gauff, the louder Sabalenka hollered to will shots into play. The tighter Gauff turned the vice, the more Sabalenka recklessly sprayed balls like a 6 year old with a super soaker on a sticky New York summer day.

Forty-six Sabalenka errors later (haters will say they were “unforced” but we know better), and up 5-2, 40-0 in the third, Gauff would drag Sabalenka into an awkward no man’s land volley, setting up an effortless backhand winner into the open court. Gauff collapsed to the ground, the weight of the world’s expectations instantly lifted off her chiseled shoulders, ready to fulfill their true purpose, hoisting Grand Slam trophies. 

If the sight of Gauff realizing what she had just done didn’t excite you, you might be heartless. If the scene of Gauff climbing the stands to embrace her father Corey and mother Candi didn’t have you in your feelings, then you might be soulless. If you couldn’t find pride in this young American woman winning the U.S. Open title, you might need to have your “patriotism” checked. And if you felt a hot burning sensation in your spine before she handed the microphone back to Mary Jo Fernandez, then you may have been thanked during her victory speech. After graciously acknowledging her opponent, the tournament staff, sponsors, Billie Jean King, her team and family, Gauff had some kind words for her doubters and naysayers. 

“Honestly, thank you to the people who didn’t believe in me,” Gauff said. “A month ago, I won a 500 title, and people said I would stop at that. Two weeks ago, I won a 1000 title, and people were saying that was as big as it was going to get. So three weeks later I’m here with this trophy now. I tried my best to carry this with grace. Those who thought you were putting water on my fire were really adding gas to it, and now I’m really burning so bright.”

In a defining summer, the nineteen-year-old blazed a trail among the sport's elite, on her home soil, leaving a historic trail of victory smoldering in her wake. Coco Gauff has undeniably taken her rightful place among the best women’s tennis players in the world. Becoming the champion many said she could never be, the champion she always knew she would be. 

Washington D.C., bagged. Cincinnati, done. New York City, did that. Coco Gauff, fueled by a newfound confidence in her game, a stabilized forehand, and by those who said she could never do it, did it. The summer of 2023 belonged to Coco Gauff. Coco Gauff was all gas and she wanted all the smoke. Coco Gauff burned brighter than ever. This summer, Coco Gauff let em' know.

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