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In Serena’s footsteps: Coco Gauff leads next generation of American tennis

Coco Gauff calls Serena Williams "the reason why I play tennis," but she is becoming a star in her own right. (Frey/TPN/Getty Images)

Serena Williams is a singular talent, defining and inspiring a generation of American tennis.

Yet her retirement is on the horizon. The 23-time Grand Slam champion plans to step away from the sport after the 2022 US Open, and the question of who will take up the torch as the next American superstar remains up in the air.

Sloane Stephens, Danielle Collins and Jessica Pegula, among others, have emerged amid Williams’ rise to superstardom, but none have taken the mantle.

As Williams prepares to depart, though, a crop of young, promising talent is on the rise in the United States. As they make names for themselves on the world stage, the next generation of American tennis is upon us.

Meet the next generation of American tennis

Coco Gauff

Coco Gauff’s rise resembles Williams’ in many ways, with the young Black star taking the tennis world by storm as a teenage prodigy.

“I grew up watching her,” Gauff said of Williams in August. “I mean that’s the reason why I play tennis. Tennis being a predominantly white sport it definitely helped a lot. Because I saw somebody who looked like me dominating the game. It made me believe that I could dominate, too.”

And dominate she has. In 2019, Gauff became the youngest player ever to break into Wimbledon’s main draw at 15 years and three months old.

Fast-forward three years and Gauff continues to dazzle. Now 18, she made an appearance in a Grand Slam final in June, falling to world No. 1 Iga Swiatek at the French Open.

Even at her young age, Gauff is known for her poise. She possesses a composed yet competitive demeanor on the court that sets her apart from her peers.

Known for her stellar movement and court awareness, Gauff possesses a tennis I.Q. well beyond her years. In the midst of her meteoric rise, Gauff has worked to improve her forehand, striving to match the pace and consistency of her lethal two-handed backhand.

Ranked No. 12 in the world, Gauff is the second highest ranked American player, four places below Pegula, who is 10 years her senior.

Gauff enters the US Open, set to kick off on Aug. 29, after suffering a minor ankle sprain at the Cincinnati Masters. The injury, though, is “really minor,” according to Gauff, who reassured fans that “the world is not ending” in a post on Instagram.

The Atlanta native will look to improve upon her third-round run at Flushing Meadows in 2019. If she does, she will establish herself as a force to be reckoned with at her home Grand Slam.

Madison Keys

At 27 years old, Madison Keys does not quite fit the label of an up-and-coming talent. The Illinois native already has enjoyed a successful career, including an appearance at the 2017 US Open final and semifinal appearances at the 2015 and 2022 Australian Open and the 2018 French Open.

Keys’ run on tour has had ups and downs. Still, she managed an important breakthrough in Cincinnati, defeating Swiatek in straight sets at the US Open warmup for her first-ever win over a reigning world No. 1. She followed up the landmark victory with a quarterfinal win over Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.

Her impressive showing in Ohio could signal a mid-career renaissance for Keys. The world No. 20 will aim to make a similar run in Flushing Meadows for her maiden Grand Slam title.

Amanda Anisimova

Amanda Anisimova exploded onto the international tennis scene with a semifinal appearance at the 2019 French Open, which helped catapult her to a career-high No. 21 ranking.

Three years later, the 20-year-old sits at No. 24, and she has two career titles to her name.

Aminsova deploys an aggressive game against her opponents, blasting flat, powerful groundstrokes from the baseline. Her two-handed backhand is her secret weapon, and she produces an impressive number of winners off her preferred stroke.

The Florida native’s season hit a snag when she was forced to withdraw from her round of 32 matchup in Cincinnati due to an ankle injury.

While the injury could spell trouble for her US Open chances, she undoubtedly is a shining star in the next wave of American players.

The US Open will start Aug. 29 in New York and run through Sept. 11.