In every sport, fans are constantly on the lookout for the next breakthrough star, and it seems as though tennis may have found one in the form of Coco Gauff. Still only 16 years of age, Gauff already has some big-name scalps and good Grand Slam performances under her belt. In 2019, she reached the last 16 stage at Wimbledon, after sensationally defeating Venus Williams in the opening round, and she then matched that achievement at the following Australian Open, reaching the fourth round in Melbourne and sending both Williams and Naomi Osaka packing along the way.
At such a tender age, it’s hard to believe that Gauff has been able to shrug aside these giants of the game. While Venus Williams is undoubtedly no longer the force she once was in the women’s game, she is still a wily, experienced opponent, and to have beaten her twice in Grand Slams is a huge achievement. Osaka, meanwhile, is arguably the best women’s player in the world, and Gauff simply played her off the court in Melbourne last year, winning comfortably in straight sets.
Now, with the Australian Open once again just around the corner, the question is whether Gauff can begin to really make her presence felt in the latter stages of a Grand Slam tournament. While she’s had some terrific individual results, she has so far struggled to make that push to challenge in the quarter-finals or semi-finals of one of the big four events.
But having gained more experience over the last year, perhaps 2021 could be the year where we see the young American really flex her muscles and announce herself fully as a dominant force in the game for years to come. She won’t be among the top favourites in the 2021 Australian Open odds, but she’s proved that she has the talent, strength and temperament to knock out the top favourites in tournaments, and that alone means she can never be written off.
You would say that for Gauff to truly become a name to be feared in the sport, she’ll need to start racking up some more titles. To have one WTA Tour title to her name at just 16 years of age is a fine achievement, but the task now is to live up to the standards she has set for herself, and continue to deliver silverware. The holy grail will be a maiden Grand Slam title, and if the stars align for her in Melbourne, perhaps it’s not out of the question to think she could produce fireworks at the Australian Open.
There are few things more exciting in sport than seeing a young player come through and challenge the established and experienced names, and Gauff has lit up tennis like few players have in recent years. With the women’s game possessing so many players who are capable of winning Grand Slams, and with the big four tournaments so hard to predict, perhaps there is hope that Gauff’s first major crown could come sooner than many expect.
Complacency must be guarded against at all costs, but the nature of Gauff’s victories in her career so far suggest that she won’t be fazed by the hype that surrounds her. Gauff’s gaze will simply be fixed on the next ball, the next game, the next set and the next match. And before long you can bet that the titles will come flowing her way.