Coco Gauff has revealed she spent a lot of time preparing for her return from retirement and drew inspiration from tennis legends Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams.
The US Open champion recalled the importance Williams placed on her “incredible” return and revealed she hopes to return like Djokovic as the Serb is the “best comeback” in the sport By”.
Gauff advanced to the third round of the 2024 Australian Open without dropping a set after defeating Anna Karolina Schmidlova and Caroline Dolehead.
The world number four used a big serve from world number 43 Dolehead to beat her fellow American 7-6(2), 6-2 on Wednesday.
The 19-year-old will face another big server, 23-year-old American Alycia Parks, in the third round in Melbourne on Friday. Parks, ranked 82nd in the world, had 23 aces in her first two games against Daria Snigur and Leila Fernandez.
Gauff opened her season by defending her title at a WTA event in Auckland in early January and has won seven straight in 2024.
During her press conference after the win over Dolehead, Goff was asked about the progress of her return and how much time she spent in practice improving it.
“I’ve actually had a lot of practice with this. One of the reasons is because when I’ve seen Serena train in the past, she would literally spend a few hours or a whole session on her return, which is why she’s such an amazing person. Incredible returner,” the American explained.
“Playing against a big server (Dollhead) today and then obviously the next round I’m going to play against a big server (Parks), I think just putting the returns in will make a big difference, whether the returns are great or not.
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“I definitely spent a lot of time on it. I think the serve and return is one of the most important shots in tennis because it’s where the points start and it sets you up.
“For me, I try to spend an equal amount on service and returns. I think my returns have improved over the years and hopefully I can continue to improve.
“I watched a lot of Novak’s games because I wanted to come back like him. He’s probably the best returner. Yeah, he definitely is. I wanted to come back like him. If you look at his swing when he returns the ball Rod action, you’ll see it’s not like a full cut. It’s much shorter and a lot more abbreviated than when he actually hits the ball.
“I realized when you’re serving and someone’s serving hard, you can use their speed against them. I think that’s the model. Sometimes it’s not always easy, but I feel like that’s what I work on and practice a lot. matter.”
The 19-year-old also looked ahead to her first career matchup with Parks and said she is very familiar with her fellow American.
“I’ve known her (Parks) for a long time, since I was about nine years old. (I) used to practice with her and her sister. We all lived in Delray Beach, or something like that area. Yeah, I know her well,” Goff said.
“She has a very strong game, a strong serve, a strong stroke, very athletic. I think she is one of, if not the most athletic players on tour. Like me, she, Sloan (Stephens) and Iga are probably up there, and (Maria) Sakkari. I’m probably missing a few more. Those would be my top five. She’s right up there.
“It’s going to be a tough match. I don’t expect it to be easy. I’ve never actually played against her since that age except for the mixed doubles we did at the U.S. Open, but I’ve never played against her I fought against her in training.
“We both went in, you know, not blindly because we obviously looked at each other but never hit anything. It was going to be a tough game. She’s a great player, I always knew that She’s going to do well on tour. It’s just a matter of when everything comes together. “I think it’s starting to come together now. “
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