Goff carries Williams legacy into first U.S. Open final

NEW YORK (AFP) — A year after her fond farewell to Serena Williams, young Coco Gauff has become a figure who can carry the baton both on and off the court and will play in her first US Open final on Saturday against the formidable Alina Saba Lenka.

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At 19, the American star was crowned her first Grand Slam champion in front of an adoring New York crowd, remembering Serena Williams achieving the same feat in 1999 when she was just 17.

If Williams can beat then-world No. 1 Martina Hingis, Gauff will meet Belarusian Alina Saha on Saturday at 4:00 pm local time (8:00 pm GMT). Aryna Sabalenka will take over as WTA leader on Monday.

On her way to the final, Gauff sought to escape comparisons to Williams, her childhood idol and 23-time Grand Slam winner who has carried the burden since she became famous as a 15-year-old. A heavy burden.

“Serena is Serena,” Gauff said after Thursday’s semifinal win over Karolina Muchova. “She’s the GOAT. I wish I could do even half of what she does.”

The young African-American tennis player admits that Williams was a major figure in inspiring her to pick up a racket and pursue her dreams.

“He was able to change a predominantly white sport,” Goff recalled. “It meant a lot to me, both as a kid and now.”

“Before I was born, before Serena, there weren’t a lot of (black tennis players). None of the icons of the sport looked like me,” he noted.

“So, growing up, I never thought I was different because the No. 1 player in the world was someone who looked like me,” she said.

Gauff rose to prominence in the tennis world with a stunning and symbolic victory over Serena’s sister Venus Williams in the first round of Wimbledon 2019.

Since this achievement, at just 15 years old, Gough has been forging his own identity and becoming a recognized voice on sporting issues as well as the social and racial challenges facing his country.

Advice from Brad Gilbert

The Delray Beach (Fla.) jewel hasn’t developed as quickly as Williams, but this year it’s starting to turn its massive potential into major trophies.

Last month, she scored her long-awaited first victory over world number one Iga Swiatek in Cincinnati after winning the Washington title (WTA 500). Tech beat her seven times, including once in her first Grand Slam final. Roland Garros 2022.

Despite Goff’s talent and physical superiority, he went through difficult times and suffered from “imposter syndrome,” questioning his ability to live up to huge expectations.

His change of mentality coincided with the arrival of the famous Brad Gilbert as an advisor to his side, who were painfully eliminated in the first round at Wimbledon in July.

Brad Gilbert (left) and Coco Gauff's coach Pere Riba during their semifinal match against Karolina Muchova.
Brad Gilbert (left) and Coco Gauff’s coach Pere Riba during their semifinal match against Karolina Muchova. © Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America/AFP

The young woman explained that the first piece of advice given to her by Andre Agassi’s former coach was to learn to have fun.

“In my first meeting with Brad before practice started, he told me: ‘You have to smile more,'” he revealed.

“When he said that, I was kind of surprised. I started thinking about it and said, ‘Yeah, I would do that,'” she explained. “That’s something I’m working on and obviously I think it’s going to help my results.”

Sabalenka in front of Goff and the public

With her first WTA 1000 title in Cincinnati, Gauff has won 11 matches in a row and will face her biggest test against Sabalenka on Saturday.

The Belarusian, who will replace Swiatek as the WTA No. 1 on Monday, is enjoying a season of consolidation as a star on the tour.

Aryna Sabalenka plays Madison Keys in the U.S. Open semifinals.
Aryna Sabalenka plays Madison Keys in the U.S. Open semifinals. © ELSA / GETTY IMAGES North America/AFP

The 25-year-old has reached five consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals and won his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open at the beginning of the year.

On Thursday night, the Belarusian shook off the shadow of five career Grand Slam semifinal losses with a dramatic three-set comeback against local player Madison Keys, who took the first set 0-6 and served for the win. second.

Sabalenka, who describes herself as “her own psychologist,” will need all her mental resistance to face Gauff and the 23,000 fans at the world’s biggest circuit who will push the local pearl on Saturday.

Sabalenka acknowledged that Goff “is an unbelievable player.” “The public is going to be very supportive of her. I’m going to do my best. I’m going to fight for every point and give it my all.”

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