American teenager Coco Gauff came from behind to win the US Open on Saturday, claiming her first Grand Slam title with a dominant win over Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus. Gauff, 19, produced a gutsy performance on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 in 2 hours and 6 minutes to complete a fairytale turnaround in her season’s fortunes. The sixth seed from Florida had gone into the final as an underdog against hard-hitting second seed Sabalenka, who will be world number one in next week’s rankings. But with both players making a series of errors throughout a bug-strewn final watched by a record crowd of 28,143, it was Gauff who held her nerve when it came to claiming a deserved victory.
The victory completed a remarkable turnaround for Gauff, who was left despondent after a first-round exit at Wimbledon in July.
But she bounced back to win titles in Washington and Cincinnati and has now landed the biggest win of her career after a shock loss at the French Open last year.
“It means so much to me,” an elated Gauff said afterward. “I feel like I’m in a bit of shock at this moment.
“That loss at the French Open (last year) was heartbreaking for me. It makes this moment even sweeter than I could have imagined.”
Gauff, the third American teenager to win the US Open after Tracy Austin and Serena Williams, also used her victory speech to thank those who doubted her talent.
“Honest thanks to the people who didn’t believe me,” she joked.
“To those who thought they put water on my fire, they put gas on my fire and I’m burning so bright right now.”
Gauff was in trouble in the opening game and Sabalenka broke her immediately with a rasping backhand that drew a roar of “Come on!” from the Belarusian one.
She easily held to take a 2-0 lead, but Gauff then took advantage of a shaky service game from Sabalenka to break at 2-2 in the fourth.
The Belarusian double-faulted to allow Gauff to get back level.
But the hard-fought parity was surrendered in the next game as Sabalenka broke back to go 3-2 ahead.
Sabalenka then faltered on her own serve once more as Gauff earned two break points in the sixth game.
But Sabalenka got it back to serve with an ace and then took a 4-2 lead with an emphatic smash.
Gauff’s problems on serve continued and Sabalenka broke for the third time to race 5-2 ahead, and she duly finished the set by holding in the next game.
But with the match threatening to become a rout, Gauff finally clicked into gear in the second set, making fewer unforced errors and evening out breaks in her serve.
Instead, it was Sabalenka who began to show signs of fragility as the tension mounted. She double-faulted, giving Gauff the only break of the set and a 3-1 lead.
Gauff fended off a break point in the next game to hold 4-1 and went on to hold the rest of the set to level the match when Sabalenka hit a long forehand.
The momentum stayed with Gauff in the final set and she secured another decisive break in the opening game when she put away an underhit Sabalenka lob with a smash.
Gauff then easily held on for a 2-0 lead as Sabalenka struggled to regain any composure.
She coughed up four unforced errors to give Gauff a break and a 3-0 lead, and the American then held with ease to lead 4-0.
Sabalenka stopped the rot by holding serve in the fifth game before taking a medical timeout to receive treatment on her left thigh.
However, Gauff was in no mood to let her grip on the match slip.
Although Sabalenka held and broke Gauff to cut the lead to 4-2, Gauff hit back when Sabalenka double-faulted to present a break point.
Gauff collected to break for a 5-2 lead, then swept to victory in the next game, holding on for a backhand winner.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)
Topics mentioned in this article