The American player Coco Gauff, 6th in the world, won the U.S. Open Saturday by beating Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the final, winning her first title in a Grand Slam tournament at the age of 19.
Gauff had played the final at Roland-Garros in 2022, but had never yet progressed beyond the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows. She will be 3rd in the world Monday, the best ranking of her career. Sabalenka, despite the defeat, will be No.1.
Gauff is the youngest American to win the U.S. Open since Serena Williams in 1999, when she won the first of her six titles at Flushing Meadows.
The young Floridian ends with fireworks an American summer tour launched in a flamboyant month of August with two titles up for grabs: Washington and the WTA 1,000 in Cincinnati, where she beat world No.1 Iga Swiatek in the semi-finals.
Sabalenka, 25, was also playing her first final in New York after losing in the semi-finals of the last two editions.
She tried throughout the match to overwhelm Gauff, but the American's defense got the better of the Belarusian who scuttled herself with unforced errors (46 in total against 19 for Gauff).
One set to understand, two to win
However, at the start of the final, the young American, supported by the 24,000 spectators at the Arthur-Ashe court, was totally overtaken by Sabalenka who, with her big powerful shots, immediately took the game into her own hands, while the American was content to put the ball back, if possible in the court.
But the Belarusian made so many unforced errors that she kept her opponent in the match. And Gauff did not give up.
She ended up getting used to the bombardment and responding, one blow after another.
Gauff broke at the start of the third set on her first chance, chasing every ball until she hit a volley that she celebrated by pumping her fist in the air and yelling, "Let's go!"
Very soon, that quarter was 4-0 in favor of the American. At 4-1, Sabalenka requested a timeout to get a leg massage. Gauff remained sharp after the break — a few minutes, not the 50 required in the semifinals for a protest against climate change. She kept the pace by practicing some serves.
When the duel resumed, Sabalenka achieved a break that put her ahead 4-2. But Gauff got her own break immediately and was soon serving for the win.
When she secured it, she fell back onto the court. She then climbed the stands to meet her parents and other loved ones, whom she hugged.
"You did it!" her mother told her through tears.
The men's final
On Sunday, Novak Djokovic will face 2021 U.S. Open champion Daniil Medvedev, who advanced by eliminating defending champ Carlos Alcaraz 7-6 (3), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in the second semifinal Friday night.
Alcaraz was asked how long this loss might bother him.
"Days? Weeks? I don't know. I don't think I'm going to think about this loss for a long time," he said. "Of course, I have to learn (from) it. I want to be better. These kind of matches help you a lot to be better and grow up."
A year after Djokovic could not travel to the United States for the Open because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19, the 36-year-old from Serbia is one victory away from a fourth title in New York and 24th Grand Slam championship overall.
The No. 3-seeded Medvedev, a 27-year-old from Russia, denied Djokovic a calendar-year Grand Slam by beating him in the final at Flushing Meadows two years ago.
"The challenge is that you play a guy that won 23 Grand Slams, and I have only one," Medvedev said, looking ahead to taking on Djokovic. "When I beat him here, I managed to play better than myself, so I need to do it again. There is no other way."
Both Medvedev and Alcaraz played brilliantly in parts, so-so in others. Both interacted with the spectators, pointing to an ear to ask for more noise. In the final game, fans called out as Medvedev double-faulted twice while trying to seal the win against a guy who beat him in the Wimbledon semifinals en route to the title there in July.
But Medvedev managed to hold on.
"Really happy," he said, "but the tournament is not over."
If Djokovic does end up leaving with the hardware this time, he would break a tie with Serena Williams for the most major singles championships in the Open era.
"It's another shot for history," said Djokovic, who was seeded No. 2 at the U.S. Open but will replace Alcaraz at No. 1 next week no matter what happens Sunday.
Some information was provided by The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.