As Coco Gauff breezed through to a second Grand Slam final, and a first at the US Open, with a 6-4 7-5 win over Karolina Muchova on Thursday, it’s easy to forget the American star is just 19 years old.
Gauff has long-been heralded as the future of women’s tennis, ever since bursting onto the scene as a 15-year-old and the youngest-ever qualifier at Wimbledon, beating Venus Williams on her way to the fourth round in 2019.
Huge expectations have since followed the teenager, which she has at times struggled to match, such as when defeated in the first round at SW19 this summer.
But since then, Gauff has dazzled on the hard courts, winning in Washington early last month, getting to the quarter-finals in Montreal and adding a further title in Cincinnati prior to arriving in New York for the final slam of the year.
Gauff, seeded sixth, has maintained that magnificent form in Flushing Meadows, becoming the youngest American woman to reach the US Open final since Serena Williams in 1999.
Now the question is can she match Williams once more by winning Saturday’s final against second-seed Aryna Sabalenka?
“I really believe that now I have the maturity and ability to do it,” said Gauff, who came close to a major trophy last year in the French Open but lost to Iga Swiatek.
“I grew up watching this tournament so much, so it means a lot to be in the final.
“A lot to celebrate, but you know the job is not done so hopefully [the fans] can back me on Saturday.”
Gauff added: “After Wimbledon, I wasn’t expecting to do well, honestly. Regardless of what happens [in the final], I’m really proud of how I have been handling the last few weeks.”
Sabalenka ready to ‘fight for every point’ in final
Awaiting Gauff in the final is Sabalenka, after the Belarusian denied the home crowd the prospect of an all-American final after coming back in extraordinary fashion to defeat 2017 finalist Madison Keys.
Sabalenka lost the first set 6-0 and was trailing Keys 5-4 in the second, with the American serving for the match, before she successfully broke serve to love, ultimately going on to triumph in two tie-breakers.
The 25-year-old Sabalenka won the Australian Open in January but had five other semi-final defeats on her resume entering Thursday’s semi-final, including two in a row at Flushing Meadows.
“Lucky me, somehow magically, I don’t know how, I was able to turn around this game,” Sabalenka said. “You just have to keep trying, keep staying there, and keep pushing it.
“I’m really happy that after that reaction I was able to stay focused and I was able to stay focused because… it could be the other way around.”
“Being in the final at the US Open for the first time, it really means a lot to me.”
The win sees Sabalenka hold a superb 23-2 record in Grand Slam matches this season, guaranteeing her the world No 1 ranking next week, regardless of the result in Saturday’s final.
But she knows a stern test awaits in the form of Gauff, playing in front of a vocal home crowd, in Saturday’s final
“She’s an unbelievable top player,” Sabalenka said of her opponent. “She’s playing really incredible tennis here.
“Yeah, the crowd will be really supporting her a lot. It’s something I’m expecting. This is nothing crazy.
“I’ll just go there and just do everything I can. I’ll be there. I’ll be fighting for every point. I’ll do my best.”
The US Open on Sky Sports
Tennis is back on Sky, adding to the existing sports portfolio and reaffirming the broadcaster as the home of live sport in the UK & Ireland.
Sky Sports’ new mixed reality studio features multiple custom built LED screens, integrated light ‘sabres’, and an open canopy roof, making the space alive with colour and energy to reflect the vibrancy of the last Grand Slam of the year.
With integrated AR capabilities, a versatile LED floor, and a ‘fourth wall’, the viewer will be transported to the Arthur Ashe Stadium in a 360-degree immersive environment. Our tennis experts will take the viewer into the eyes of the players for expert Hawkeye analysis and insight as the tournament progresses.
The technology involved allows us to add an entire new dimension and will bring customers closer to the action.
Highlights of matches will be available across Sky Sports TV and our social media platforms.
Video highlights will also be available of the Sky Sports website and app, where there will also be a daily live text commentary on the Sky Sports website and app, as well as live scores, reports, analysis and features.