Coco Gauff Takes the U.S. Open by Storm, Advancing to the Semifinals

Coco Gauff gracefully acknowledged the spectators from every angle of Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday, expressing gratitude for their unwavering support during one of the easiest yet most significant victories of her budding career. With her arms outstretched and a beaming smile, she waved her fingers upwards, as if beckoning for a little extra love.

At just 19 years old, Gauff is now only a few steps away from achieving her lifelong dream. With just two more wins, or four sets, at the U.S. Open, she could secure her first major singles title. Despite the mounting pressure, Gauff maintains the cool composure of a seasoned champion, seemingly unfazed by the weight on her shoulders.

“I remind myself to enjoy this moment,” she stated. “I’m having so much fun. I shouldn’t obsess over the outcome. I lead a fortunate life and I’m incredibly blessed. I want to appreciate every bit of it.”

Notably, winning often leads to smiles, and Gauff, the tournament’s sixth seed, is delivering a top-notch performance, taking full advantage of a favorable draw to surge into her first U.S. Open semifinal.

Under the midday sun on Tuesday, Gauff remarkably dominated Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, triumphing with a resounding 6-0, 6-2 victory in just 68 minutes. In doing so, she became the first American teenager since Serena Williams in 2001 to reach the U.S. Open semifinal.

Coincidentally, Williams was also 19 years old when she accomplished this feat. She went on to reach the final, where she was defeated by her older sister, Venus Williams. Serena, who had already clinched the U.S. Open in 1999, eventually amassed a staggering 23 major singles titles, solidifying her status as one of tennis’ greatest players.

“She’s my idol,” Gauff admitted, referring to Serena Williams. “If you had told me when I was younger that I would be compared to her, I would have been overwhelmed. I don’t want to dwell on it too much because I don’t want to get a big head or feel the pressure, but it’s incredible to have that comparison.”

In her upcoming semifinal, Gauff is set to face the beatable No. 10 seed, Karolina Muchova, who defeated No. 30 Sorana Cirstea with a convincing 6-0, 6-3 victory in their recent quarterfinal match.

Gauff has previous experience playing against Muchova, having emerged victorious in their sole encounter in the final of the Western & Southern Open in Ohio last month. This favorable result may pave the way for Gauff’s smooth journey to the final, potentially leading to her first Grand Slam title. She has already sidestepped a potential quarterfinal clash with top-seeded Iga Swiatek, as Ostapenko surprisingly eliminated the latter in a late match on Sunday.

When Ostapenko returned to the court 36 hours later, facing scorching temperatures above 90 degrees on Ashe, she proved no match for Gauff. Opting for aggressive winners from the start, Ostapenko committed 36 unforced errors, while Gauff displayed patience and maturity, allowing her flustered opponent to unravel.

Gauff, who bounced back triumphantly after a disappointing first-round exit at Wimbledon by winning the tournaments in Washington, D.C., and Mason, Ohio, has continued her hard court success by storming through the draw in Queens. She has defeated three unseeded players, including former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, as well as No. 32 Elise Mertens and No. 20 Ostapenko. Her biggest challenge may await her in No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka, should they both make it to the final.

Due to a cable television dispute with her hotel’s provider, Gauff was unable to watch Ostapenko’s victory against Swiatek on Sunday night. However, upon seeing the score, Gauff knew that her biggest obstacle to success had been uprooted.

“I was shocked,” Gauff admitted. “But I had to focus on playing tennis, regardless of whether I faced Swiatek or Jelena.”

Understandably, Ostapenko was dismayed by the fact that she had to compete again so soon after her grueling three-set victory against Swiatek. She revealed that she returned to her Manhattan hotel around 2 a.m. on Monday and struggled to fall asleep until 5 a.m., still riding the adrenaline high.

Ostapenko also expressed disappointment with the scheduling. After assuming that their quarterfinal match against Gauff—given the latter’s popularity—would be scheduled for the evening, they were instead placed on court at noon, serving as the day’s first singles match. The night session on Ashe was devoted to Frances Tiafoe and Ben Shelton, two rising American players, following the Cirstea-Muchova match.

“I was a little bit surprised when I saw the schedule,” Ostapenko commented, “and not in a positive way.”

Ostapenko also cited difficulties with the sun and expressed the belief that Gauff didn’t live up to her expectations, despite winning just two games and holding serve only once. However, her main grievance revolved around the scheduling.

“I think it’s a little bit absurd,” she remarked.

Meanwhile, Gauff eloquently addressed her position in the world of tennis, discussing how she handles pressure, her experience growing up in the limelight, and the lessons she learned from her grandmother, Yvonne Lee Odom. Notably, Odom integrated Seacrest High School in Delray Beach, Florida, in 1961.

“She always reminds me that I’m more than just an athlete—I’m a person first,” Gauff revealed.

Gathering all her talent, confidence, and astuteness, Gauff continues to achieve new milestones at the U.S. Open. While she reached the final of the 2022 French Open, where she fell to Swiatek, this tournament holds special significance as her home turf. Fans and oddsmakers alike have embraced Gauff, making her the favored player.

She relishes the support of her fans, who have flocked to the U.S. Open in record numbers this year, with many coming specifically to watch her play. Gauff gladly embraces the attention and never fails to wear a smile—after all, she’s emerged victorious in all five matches.

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