Coco Gauff is unlikely to suffer the same comedown from winning the US Open as 2021’s teenage champion Emma Raducanu, according to 1980s legend Chris Evert, because she is more emotionally developed.
Gauff burst into floods of tears on Saturday night after overcoming the new world No1 Aryna Sabalenka to notch her first major title. Yet this was not a one-in-a-million lightning strike like Raducanu’s miraculous triumph two years ago.
Despite being only 19 years old, Gauff has been a significant figure on the tour since she broke through at Wimbledon in 2019, defeating her idol Venus Williams on No1 Court. Unlike Raducanu, she has had time to come to terms with the unique demands of the tour, and arrived in New York a fortnight ago among the bookies’ favourites.
“I am glad Coco Gauff did not win as a younger teenager because it can be a bad thing for players,” said Evert during a recent punditry session on American host broadcaster ESPN. “There are examples of that. Look at Emma Raducanu.
“It puts a lot of pressure on the player because they are not emotionally developed yet and they cannot handle it. Coco is now ready to win.”
Raducanu’s own dash to the title in 2021 became one of the great fairytale stories of modern sport, but her overnight transformation from south-London schoolgirl to international icon – when she was still only 18 – took its toll.
She was suddenly being recognised wherever she went, while her opponents were arriving on court with extra motivation. Meanwhile, Raducanu and her family proved reluctant to commit to long-term partnerships. Just a couple of weeks after she lifted the trophy in New York, Andrew Richardson became the first of five official coaches to be jettisoned.
To bring the story up to date, Raducanu has won 24 of 51 matches since beating Leylah Fernandez in the 2021 US Open final, and is now working her way slowly back to fitness after three separate operations – one on each wrist and another on her ankle – in late spring.
As for Gauff, she has also had to deal with plenty of hype since 2019 – the year of her astonishing run to the fourth round of Wimbledon as a 15-year-old. She was asked about this challenge in the interview room on Saturday night, after her magnificent 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 comeback win over Sabalenka.
“It’s been difficult,” she replied. “I mean, it’s been a long journey to this point. I wasn’t a fully developed player, and … people were putting a lot of pressure on me to win. I felt that at 15 I had to win a slam at 15.
“Now I realise that I just need to go out there and try my best. It was to the point where I remember I lost when I was 17 and there was a stat, they were like, ‘Oh, she’s not going to win a slam before Serena’s age.’ It was [because of] stuff like that, I felt like I had a time limit on when I should win one, and if I won one after a certain age it wouldn’t be an achievement.
“Yeah, it’s just crazy the amount of things that I have heard or seen about myself, but I’m really happy of how I’ve been able to manage it all.”