Growing up, Coco Gauff idolized Serena and Venus Williams.
In a mostly white sport, Gauff saw herself in the Black sisters who dominated the sport during her childhood. And in the aftermath of her U.S. Open victory Saturday, Gauff credited the sisters.
“They’re the reason why I have this trophy today,” Gauff said. “They’ve allowed me to believe in this dream. Growing up, there weren’t too many Black tennis players dominating the sport. It was just them at the time that I can remember, and obviously more came because of their legacy. It made the dream more believable.”
Gauff defeated Aryna Sabalenka, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the tournament finals at Arthur Ashe Stadium, falling to the ground and crying when she won. Gauff, 19, became the first American teen to win the U.S. Open since Serena Williams in 1999.
Williams, of course, went on to win the tournament another five times, including in 2002, when she defeated her sister in the final. Gauff wasn’t born until 2004, but she grew up with the backdrop of both Williams sisters as icons of the sport.
And on Saturday, Gauff joined her heroes and etched her name as one of the titans of the sport.
“All the things they had to go through, they made it easier for someone like me to do this,” Gauff said. “You look back at the history of Indian Wells with Serena, and all she had to go through. Venus, fighting for equal pay. It’s crazy and it’s an honor to be in the same lineup as them.”