Coco Gauff wins in Washington and this victory felt significant

Kevin Palmer
Coca Gauff wins the title in Washington
Coca Gauff wins the title in Washington

Coco Gauff’s win in Washington may have been a hugely significant moment on this WTA Tour season

No 3 seed Gauff captured her first WTA 500 title after defeating No 4 seed Maria Sakkrari 6-2, 6-3 in the final of the Mubadala Citi DC Open, with the bare facts only telling part of the story for this compelling sporting superstar.

From the moment Gauff broke through in stunning fashion by beating Venus Williams in the opening round of Wimbledon in 2019, a star was born and the pressure that comes with it weighed heavily on her young shoulders.

It could be argued that while Iga Swiatek is the world No 1 and the best player in the women’s game, Gauff has been the most famous face in the women’s game over the last four years and that tag comes with additional pressure for the 19-year-old.

Given the expectations around her, Gauff has done well to maintain her position in the top ten of the WTA rankings and also top the rankings in doubles.

Yet a singles Grand Slam crown is the prize Gauff wants and this win against Sakkrari in Washington will lift her hopes ahead of the US Open later this month.

Gauff was assisted in Washington by new coach Pere Riba and temporary consultant Brad Gilbert, with the combination clearly helping her to find a winning formula.

“It’s our first tournament as a full team. I’m glad that we were able to make this result. Thank you for sticking with me,” said Gauff.

“I know those who were with me at Wimbledon, it was really tough. I’m glad I was able to bounce back.”

Gauff will stay at No 7 in the world after this title triumph, her fourth on the WTA Tour, yet it is the self belief it will give her that could be significant.

Self-belief in the latter stages of Grand Slam events has been lacking for Gauff at times in recent years, with Chris Evert telling Tennis365 in May that one area of her game needs to be improved if she is to turn her potential into consistent success.

“If you were to ask me when Coco was 15 and she beat Venus at Wimbledon whether she would have a major by the time she was 19, I would have said yes,” began Evert.

“I would have thought she would have won a major by now. She came close last year at the French, but I just think her forehand with the extreme western grip has delayed her first major. It’s held her back a little bit.

“She has been on the tour for four years. She has the experience, the confidence and she can hold her nerve. She has an excellent serve when it is on and a world class backhand.

“Now the players are hitting to her forehand as they recognise it is the weaker side. Until she gets that ironed out or has a really great day on her forehand, I see that as something that should be a discussion with her team.

“I don’t want to say it is a problem, but what are they going to do about that?”

Gauff’s forehand appeared to have more sting on it in Washington and if she can add that shot to her armory of weapons and infuse some confidence from the title title triumph of her career so far, anything is possible for this sporting superstar.

Women’s tennis needs some big names to step forward and make their make and if this is the start of a winning run for Gauff, the sport is in for a major boost.

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