Five Things To Know About Teenage Tennis Star Coco Gauff - UBITENNIS
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Five Things To Know About Teenage Tennis Star Coco Gauff

The American has just celebrated her 16th birthday, but she already achieved a series of impressive accolades in the sport.

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Few people in the world have been able to make more than $800,000 in prize money from playing competitive sport before their 16th birthday. However, Coco Gauff is one of the few who have been able to do so.

The American teenager has been a revelation on the tour over the past year. Triggering a sharp rise in both fans and endorsements. Currently ranked 52nd in the world, she is the only player under the age of 17 in the top 100. As a junior, she proclaimed that she wanted to be ‘the best in the world’ in tennis and is currently on the right trajectory to rise to the top in only a matter of time.

“I first meet Cori when she was 10 at my academy,” coach Patrick Mouratoglou once told Ubitennis.
“She’s very special and has the two major qualities that you cannot teach. First of all, she is a great competitor. That is something very difficult to teach. Secondly, she’s a natural athlete. You can build (a player) physically, but natural athleticism is something you have or don’t have.’
“She’s a hard worker, which is something not everybody has and this is very important to reach the top of the game.” He added.

Gauff is undoubtedly fast becoming a household name and here are five things you need to know about the rising star.

1. Sport is in her blood

Born in Florida on March 13th 2004, Gauff’s parents were both keen athletes. Her father Corey played basketball at Golden State University. Meanwhile, her mother, Candi, excelled in Track and Field whilst at Florida State University. Gauff played both of those sports growing up, but it was talent and love for tennis that steered her away from them.

“I did basketball and track (athletics). Those were my favourite besides tennis. I was the only girl on the all-boys team for basketball. Which I actually kind of liked. On the track I did 800 meters and the 4x400M relay.” She told Ubitennis in 2019.
“Obviously tennis would be the best.”

2. She already has an extensive endorsement portfolio

In 2019 Forbes magazine estimated that the teenager will make $1 million in endorsements alone. She has already scored deals with shoe brand New Balance, racket manufacturer Head and prestigious Italian pasta company Barilla. Barilla are also known for their extensive work with 20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer.

https://twitter.com/CocoGauff/status/1108825119965749248

British newspaper The Telegraph has projected Gauff’s earnings to be in the range of £20 million before she reaches her twenties. This is according to Rob Mills, who is the chief executive of sport and entertainment measurement company Turnstile Sport.

“She is obviously young and you’ve got to see that consistency coming through, but if you look at say (Naomi) Osaka’s deals, we’re in the 8.5million US dollars territory. She’s going to be very quickly in that range very conceivably in the next 12 to 24 months. That’s only the sports brand category.” Mills predicts.

3. A member of Federer’s Team8

Managing the financial side of her career is Alessandro Barel Di Sant Albanoof from the agency Team8. A company co-founded by Federer and his agent Tony Godsick. The partnership has enabled the American to learn from and even mirror the Swiss maestro when it comes to the world of tennis. Both on the court and dealing with the financial side.

“Having insight on what Roger does definitely helps and while I don’t model him exactly on every point, I model some routines after him and how he handles himself,” Gauff told Forbes.com last month. “Being close to Serena (Williams) and close to Roger is really a plus for me and an advantage I have to take care of.”

The two have held numerous exchanges. One of their earliest dates back to the 2018 Australian Open where Gauff lost her opening match in the junior tournament. Following the defeat, she received some valuable advice from Federer.

“He told me not to focus too much on the pressure or the outside drama. He gave me some perspective,” Gauff recalled.
“Now, I try to enjoy the tennis and I barely think of that fist-round loss two years later.”

4. A big time player in grand slams

Despite her young age, Gauff has already exceeded expectations in the major tournaments. Her rise on the tour started last summer when she reached the fourth round of Wimbledon as a qualifier before losing to eventual champion Simona Halep. Becoming the youngest player to do so since Jennifer Capriati in 1991.

Wimbledon wasn’t just a one-off for the American. She also managed to reach the last 32 at both the US Open and Australian Open before her 16th birthday. Reaching the third round or better at her first three grand slam appearances. A milestone that both of the Williams sisters were unable to do.

It was at this year’s Australian Open where Gauff recorded her most high-profile win when she downed the then world No.4 and defending champion Naomi Osaka in straight sets. Becoming the youngest woman to score a win over a top-five player in a grand slam since Jennifer Capriati upset world No.3 Gabriela Sabatini in the quarter-finals of the 1991 US Open.

“I’m doing well right now at 15, [but] I still have so much I feel like I can get better at. I don’t even think this is close to a peak for me.” She told reporters in January.


So far in her career, Gauff has won eight grand slam main draw matches. Three at both Wimbledon and the Australian Open, as well as two at the US Open. She is just the third player in the past 30 years to have earned eight grand slam wins before turning 16.

5. Already a WTA Champion

In October 2019 Gauff won the most prestigious title in her blossoming career to date. Securing entry into the main draw of the Linz Open as a lucky loser, she stunned top seed Kiki Bertens and Andrea Petkovic en route to her maiden WTA final. Standing in her way was former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, who she downed 6-3, 1-6, 6-2, to win her first WTA title.

“This was definitely not on the calendar at the beginning of the year, because I didn’t think I’d have a chance to get in, and now I’m the champion.“ She commented on her triumph.
“It’s just insane that I got in as a lucky loser and now I’m the champion. My dad told me when I got in, before the first main‑draw match, he said: ‘You can’t lose twice in the same tournament.’ I’m sure he never thought it would come this far, to being the champion, but I guess he was right.”

Gauff is the youngest WTA champion since Nicole Vaidisova back in 2004. Furthermore, she is the youngest American WTA champion since 1991. Both Serena and Venus were 17 when they won their first trophy on the tour.

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Iga Swiatek And Coco Gauff Survive Fourth Round Obstacles In Rome

Iga Swiatek’s bid for a third Rome title continues after a straight sets win over Angelique Kerber.

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Iga Swiatek and Coco Gauff are into the quarter-finals in Rome after surviving fourth round tests against Angelique Kerber and Paula Badosa respectively.

Starting with Swiatek, the Pole secured a 7-5 6-3 victory over former Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber.

The world number one is aiming to win her third Rome title and started the match with aggressive serving.

After securing the break in the eighth game, Swiatek was broken back in the following game as Kerber increased the intensity on return.

However a hard-fought break of serve in the twelfth game sealed the set for Swiatek who broke on her third set point.

The second set didn’t start as well for Swiatek who seemingly spent a lot of energy on winning the first set as she lacked key moments of concentration with Kerber breaking in the opening game.

As expected though Swiatek bounced back well claiming two breaks of serve before serving out the match to love.

Next up for Swiatek is Madison Keys in a rematch from their semi-final contest in Madrid last week which the Pole won.

Gauff Edges Past Rejuvenated Badosa

In the other big contest of the day Coco Gauff prevented Paula Badosa from reaching a second consecutive Rome quarter-final as the American claimed a 5-7 6-4 6-1 victory.

The contest lasted almost two and a half hours as Gauff was forced to work hard against a rejuvenated Badosa.

However the former Roland Garros finalist powered through the third set to set up a meeting with seventh seed Qinwen Zheng.

The Australian Open finalist defeated Naomi Osaka in straight sets as both Gauff and Swiatek’s quarter-final matches will take place on Tuesday.

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Naomi Osaka Gaining In confidence As Rome Run Comes To An End

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Naomi Osaka believes there are plenty of positives to be drawn from her performance at this year’s Italian Open after getting knocked out in the fourth round on Monday. 

The four-time Grand Slam champion was denied a place in the last eight by seventh seed Qinwen Zheng who prevailed 6-2, 6-4. It was the first time Osaka had played a top 10 player since starting her comeback in January following the birth of her first child. During her latest match, she dropped serve four times and only managed to break Zheng once. 

“I’m pretty happy that I was able to play this match because I will learn a lot from it. I’ll learn that the level’s not that different,” Osaka told reporters.
“It’s kind of just more key moments I would say, staying mentally very resilient in myself and my abilities.”

Despite her latest defeat, 26-year-old Osaka has enjoyed a breakthrough in Rome where she beat Daria Kasatkina and Marta Kostyuk earlier in the tournament. Those triumphs are her first wins over top 20 players on clay in her career. 

“I think I definitely feel a lot more confident leaving than when I came,” she said. 
“I hope that I can learn a lot from the match I played today and apply it and do really well in Paris (at the French Open).”

So far this year Osaka has won 11 out of 20 Tour-level matches played with Rome being the first tournament where she has recorded three consecutive wins. She also reached the quarter-finals of the Doha Open in February. 

Due to her current ranking, the Japanese player will be undeeded at the French Open and could pose a big danger to the seeds if they are drawn against her in the early rounds. However, she has yet to go beyond the third round in Paris. 

“I’m probably going to do a really solid training block again. That’s been working out for me, so hopefully it works out even more,” she said of her preparations for the event. 

The French Open will begin on Sunday 26th May. 

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Can Defensive Tennis Still Be A Success Story In Women’s Tennis?

Slam triumphs, top rankings: in just a few years we have witnessed the rise and fall of a certain way of playing tennis. So what’s really been happening? Kerber, Halep, and Wozniacki have been the latest successful performers of defensive gameplay.

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SIMONA HALEP OF ROMANIA - PHOTO: MATEO VILLALBA / MMO

The last two WTA 1000 events, Miami and Madrid, whose final featured Danielle Collins vs. Elena Rybakina and Iga Swiatek vs. Aryna Sabalenka respectively, have confirmed a trend that in recent seasons seems more and more entrenched in the women’s tour: the prevalence of offensive tennis over defensive tennis.

Compared to a few years ago, things seem to have profoundly changed, to the point of almost being reversed. This does not mean that a certain type of “reactive” game has disappeared, nor that tennis based on the effectiveness of the defensive component has been scrapped. Yet, it is a matter of fact that players who rely predominantly on this approach struggle to break through and reach the top positions, unlike just a few years ago.

Before trying to identify the reasons for this phenomenon, it is necessary to verify whether the thesis is true. Here are some data. Below are the WTA rankings of the past years starting from 2015. I have highlighted in yellow the players who, in my opinion, can be associated with a defensive type of tennis.

Immagine che contiene testo, schermata, Carattere, numero

Descrizione generata automaticamente

A first comment on the 2015-17 period and the players I highlighted. Few doubts about Wozniacki, Kerber, Svitolina, and Errani. These are athletes who were never afraid of engaging in long rallies, and who often strove to turn the match into an endurance challenge, an arm wrestle over durability. It was not logical for them to seek quick and rushed points.

Including Simona Halep may seem less obvious. However, in my view, in her approach there prevails a tendency to rely on a “reaction” strategy, hitting back at her opponent’s choices; a counter-attack game, specular to an idea of pure aggressive tennis based on systematically and immediately getting the upper hand in rallies.

That is why I also highlighted Radwanska and Sevastova. In their case, it was mainly their lack of power that forced them to leverage their opponent’s power. As a result, hitting a winner could not be their first option. Winning points by eliciting errors from their opponent was far easier, simply by lengthening the rallies.

I was tempted to include Stephens and Kuznetsova as well, but in their case the matter is particularly complex because they are such eclectic players that they are difficult to confine to just one category. In fact, on the occasion of Sloane Stephens’ victory in the 2017 US Open, I decided to describe Stephens as “indefinable.”

Now let’s move on to the next three years, 2018 to 2020. 

Immagine che contiene testo, schermata, Carattere, numero

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2018 represents the pinnacle of defensive tennis, with four of its icons at the top of the rankings and three more in the top 15. After all, 2018 is the year that sees Wozniacki win in Australia (defeating Halep in the final), Halep in Paris, and Kerber at Wimbledon. At the WTA Finals in Singapore, Elina Svitolina reaps the most prestigious title of her career.

If 2018 is to be considered the zenith of defensive tennis, since 2019 there has been quite a crushing decline, confirmed by the rankings of the last three years, 2021 to 2023. 

Here follows a chart of the results in the Slams and WTA Finals from 2015 to 2024.

Immagine che contiene testo, schermata, Parallelo, Carattere

Descrizione generata automaticamente

The final Top 10 ranking 2023 featured no player with a markedly defensive imprint. Daria Kasatkina was the only flagbearer holding on in the top 20.  Players deploying aggressive tennis now seem to have taken the lead in operations.

Which are the causes that have led to the current scenario? I have identified three, which may also have been acting jointly.

1) Lack of generational turnover

One possible thesis is that the structural conditions of the women’s tour haven’t changed significantly, but that we are simply going through an episodic lack of generational turnover in defensive tennis. A temporary blackout which is bound to be overcome over time.

Wozniacki (born 1990) and Kerber (born 1988) were halted first by physical issues and then by maternity leave. Maternity also for Svitolina (born 1994), while Halep (born 1991) has been sidelined for almost two years by her doping case. In essence, all of the strongest defensive tennis players have disappeared from the top ranks due to factors unrelated to the court; somewhat prematurely, and that is also why there has not been time to find successors.

On the other hand, as of today, there are not many players aged under 30 on the horizon. I would mention Mertens (born 1995) and Kasatkina (born 1997). If we take into account that a possible alternative like Sorribes Tormo (best ranking 28) is 27, it’s quite hard to identify who can perpetuate defensive tennis.

2) Changed game conditions

For this second hypothesis, we are venturing along a complex and uneven path, which would require much more space for being addressed as it deserves. In short, the proposition holds that “slow” playing conditions favour defensive tennis, whereas “fast” playing conditions snugly fit with aggressive tennis. Should this hypothesis turn out to be grounded, organizers would simply have to decide to speed up or slow down the playing conditions and tables would be turned.

I recall the “very slow” 2018 WTA Finals in Singapore, won by Svitolina over Stephens.  As far as I am concerned, I do not have such data to suggest that in recent years the playing conditions have been sped up, thus penalizing defensive players. Almost certainly the last Finals (Guadalajara, Forth Worth, and Cancun) were played in faster conditions than the previous editions held in Asia, but it is far more complicated to prove this for the Slams and other major tournaments. 

I remember that when talking about playing conditions, not only the surface of the courts should be taken into account, but also the balls used (as well as humidity, altitude, etc). And for some essential data there no certainties, which means that the thesis is possible, but not provable.

3) Further growth of offensive players

Third hypothesis: in recent seasons new aggressive players who have risen to the very top have also enhanced the quality of their tennis, raising the bar to such heights which appear to be out of the reach of defensive players. Ultimately, offensive players have been making greater strides than defensive players.

I would say that such growth has manifested itself in two different directions. On the one hand, some players have further strengthened the offensive component, starting with the quality of their serve or and groundstrokes (as in the case of Rybakina and Sabalenka).

On the other, fewer “one-dimensional” tennis players have emerged. Currently we are seeing athletes who are comfortable not only when commanding the rally, but also when compelled to defend themselves. Let’s consider the latest year-end No. 1s: we went from Kerber/Halep (2016-18) to Barty/Swiatek (2019-2023). Well, both Barty and Swiatek were and are players capable of producing more wins than Angelique and Simona, but without going down when under pressure or scurrying and scrambling.

Wozniacki, Kerber, and Halep have relied on their great mobility and superior court coverage skills to reach the top. However, today No. 1 spot is held by a tennis player like Swiatek who, besides being a remarkable ball-striker, in terms of mobility is not at all inferior to Wozniacki & Co.

Indeed, my personal belief is that Iga is probably the best-moving tennis player since Steffi Graf. Maybe not yet when moving forward, but at least horizontally, off her right and left wing. In fact, as well as being endowed with a superlative rapidity and responsiveness, Swiatek possesses phenomenal coordination skills. A gift that enables her to organize her swing in very few moments, even if she is called upon to execute it at the end of a sprint or lunge, perhaps sliding. This means that those players who rely mainly on defensive skills are likely to find themselves lacking sufficient weapons to face an opponent with such qualities.

Conclusions

This is the current situation. What about the future? Since I do not possess a magic crystal ball, I do not feel like reciting a “de profundis” for defensive tennis. Things could change, especially in the long term.

In the short term, there is still the possibility that the “senior” players will be able to retrieve their best levels. After all, already last year at Wimbledon Svitolina was able to reach the semifinals after ousting Swiatek in the quarters. And probably if she had managed to defeat Vondrousova in the semifinals, in my opinion, she would have had very good chances against Jabeur, considering their records in finals (Ons 5 won and 8 lost, Elina 17 won and 5 lost).

Before being halted by Vondrousova, Svitolina had appeared as full of conviction, recharged by her maternity break. Which brings us back to the mental component, which can sometimes prove to be the extra weapon, capable of overshadowing physical-technical aspects.  If a defensive player endowed with an exceptional killer instinct were to burst into the WTA tour, quite different scenarios might open up.

Translated by Carla Montaruli

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