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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.

USWNT to face Costa Rica in final Olympic send-off

uswnt sophia smith and tierna davidson celebrate at shebeilves cup 2024
The USWNT will play their final pre-Olympic friendly against Costa Rica on July 16th. (Photo by Greg Bartram/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that the USWNT will play their last home game on July 16th in the lead-up to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

The 2024 Send-Off Match against Costa Rica will take place at Washington, DC’s Audi Field — home to both the Washington Spirit and DC United — at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 16th. The friendly rounds out a four-game Olympic run-up campaign under incoming head coach Emma Hayes’ side, with the last two set to feature the finalized 2024 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team roster.

Hayes will appear on the USWNT sideline for the first time this June, helming the team as they embark on a two-game series against Korea Republic hosted by Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on June 1st followed by Allianz Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 4th. 

The team is then scheduled to meet a talented Mexico squad on July 13th at Gotham FC’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, where the Olympic-bound lineup will attempt to rewrite February’s shocking 2-0 loss to El Tri Femenil in the group stages of this year’s Concacaf W Gold Cup. And while clear roster favorites have emerged from both of this year’s Gold Cup and SheBelives Cup rosters, a spate of recent and recurring injuries means making it to the Olympics is still largely anyone’s game.

Broadcast and streaming channels for the USWNT's final July 16th friendly at Audi Field include TNT, truTV, Universo, Max, and Peacock.

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA start to serve as 2024 Olympic tryout

Clark of the Indiana Fever poses for a photo with Lin Dunn and Christie Sides during her introductory press conference on April 17, 2024
The talented Fever rookie is still in the running for a ticket to this summer's Paris Olympics. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The USA Basketball Women's National Team is still considering Caitlin Clark for a spot on the Paris Olympics squad, says selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti. 

On Monday, Rizzotti told the AP that the committee will be evaluating the college phenom’s Olympic prospects by keeping a close eye on her first few weeks of WNBA play with Indiana.

The move is somewhat unconventional. While Clark was invited to participate in the 14-player national team training camp held earlier this month — the last camp before Team USA’s roster drops — she was unable to attend due to it coinciding with Iowa’s trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Judging by the immense talent spread throughout the league in what might be their most hyped season to date, competition for a piece of the Olympic pie could be fiercer than ever before.

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," said Rizzotti. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

Of course, Clark isn’t the first rookie the committee has made exceptions for. Coming off an exceptional college season that saw her averaging 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for UConn, Breanna Stewart was tapped to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil less than two weeks after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm. Eight years prior, fellow No. 1 pick Candace Parker punched her ticket to the 2008 Games in Beijing just two weeks after making her first appearance for the L.A. Sparks.

In the lead-up to Paris’ Opening Ceremony on July 26th, USA Basketball Women’s National Team is scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games. They'll first go up against the WNBA's finest at the July 20th WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix before facing Germany in London on July 23rd.

While an official roster announcement date hasn’t yet been issued, players won’t find out if they’ve made this year’s Olympic cut until at least June 1st.

WNBA teams make history with 2024 season ticket sell-outs

Arike Ogunbowale on the wnba court for the dallas wings
The Dallas Wings are now the third team to sell out their entire season ticket allotment in WNBA history. (Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time in history, three different WNBA teams have completely sold out of season ticket plans well before the league's May 14th kick-off.

Call it the Caitlin Clark effect, attribute it to this year’s tenacious rookie class, or look to the skyrocketing visibility of veteran players across the board. But no matter the cause, facts are facts: Tickets to the 2024 WNBA season are selling like never before. 

On Monday, the Dallas Wings became the third team to sell out of season ticket memberships in the league’s 27-year history. The announcement from Arlington came shortly after the Atlanta Dream issued their own season ticket sell-out statement, also on Monday, and almost seven weeks after the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces made headlines by becoming the first-ever WNBA team to sell out their season ticket allotment.   

According to the Wings, season ticket memberships will fill nearly 40% of the 6,251 seats inside their home arena, College Park Center. The club also said that their overall ticket revenue has ballooned to the tune of 220% this year, spanning not just season tickets but also a 1,200% increase in single ticket sales. There’s currently a waitlist to become a Dallas season ticket holder, a status that comes with extra incentives like playoff presale access and discounts on additional single-game tickets. 

In Atlanta, season tickets aren't the only thing flying off the shelves. The Dream also announced that they broke their own record for single-game ticket sales during a recent limited presale campaign. Sunday was reportedly their most lucrative day, with five different games totally selling out Gateway Center Arena. Individual tickets for all upcoming matchups will hit the market this Thursday at 8 a.m., while a waitlist for season ticket memberships will open up next Tuesday at 10 a.m.

"Excitement around women's sports, particularly basketball, is at an all-time high and nowhere is that felt more than here in Atlanta," Dream president and COO Morgan Shaw Parker said in the team’s statement. "We’ve continued a record-setting growth trajectory over the past three years under new ownership — both on and off the court — and 2024 is shaping up to be our best season yet."

As of Tuesday, season ticket sales revenue for Caitlin Clark’s hotly anticipated Indiana Fever debut haven’t yet been announced by the club. But if these numbers are any indication — not to mention the explosive demand for Fever away games felt by teams around the country — it won’t be long before we see some scale-tipping figures coming out of Indianapolis.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

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