American teenager Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff is living up to her billing as the next Serena Williams after reaching the US Open semi-finals.
The 19-year-old won 6-0 6-2 in just over an hour against 20th seed Jelena Ostapenko to seal her spot in the last four for the first time.
Gauff is now just two wins away from following in her idol Williams’ footsteps by tasting US Open success while still a teenager.
And it may prove just as special to her father Corey, who revealed it was 23 Grand Slam champion Williams who inspired his daughter to become of the tennis stars of the future.
Speaking to The Sun, he explained: “I think it was the Australian Open we were watching on TV when she was four or five.
“She saw me jump up celebrating when Serena won and she said, ‘Daddy, do you like that? I want to do the same thing’.”
While Serena may be the player Gauff is most often linked to, it is her older sister Venus who has played the more significant role in her career.
Gauff’s journey to the top of her sport started at seven when she moved to Florida from Georgia to pursue her tennis dream.
A year later she won her first international tournament and became the youngest girl to make a US Open Girls Final at 13 years old.
Her mainstream breakthrough came just two years after that when she entered Wimbledon as a wild card entrant at rank 272nd.
Gauff had to make it through came through three rounds of qualifying to reach the main draw all while juggling taking a science test the night before her matches.
“I ended up getting a B on the exam, which was pretty good, considering I took it at 11 at night and I had to wake up the next day for a match,” Gauff told CNN.
“After my science test, I guess some of my teachers saw the interview,” she added. “Before that … only one teacher knew I play tennis, and I don’t think they knew I was pro. And now all of them except one know I play and they’re all cheering me on.”
Gauff then stunned the world by beating former champ Venus Williams 6-4 6-4 in her Grand Slam singles debut in the first round.
Despite that triumph, Gauff is still waiting on her first Grand Slam four years later after admitting the hype around her took its toll.
“Throughout my life, I was always the youngest to do things, which added hype that I didn’t want,” Gauff wrote in a post for Behind The Racquet in 2020.
“It added this pressure that I needed to do well fast. Once I let that all go, that when I started to have the results I wanted.
“Right before Wimbledon, going back to around 2017/18, I was struggling to figure out if this was really what I wanted.
“I always had the results so that wasn’t the issue, I just found myself not enjoying what I loved.
“I realised I needed to start playing for myself and not other people. For about a year I was really depressed. That was the toughest year for me so far.
“Even though I had, it felt like there weren’t many friends there for me.
“When you are in that dark mindset you don’t look on the bright side of things too often, which is the hardest part.
“I don’t think it had much to do with tennis, maybe just about juggling it all. I knew that I wanted to play tennis but didn’t know how I wanted to go about it.
“It went so far that I was thinking about possibly taking a year off to just focus on life.
“Choosing not to obviously was the right choice but I was close to not going in that direction.”
Gauff has since refocused and has enjoyed the best spell of her career having added Andy Murray’s former coach Brad Gilbert to her camp.
The world No. 6 racked up titles in Cincinnati and Washington and is now poised for a historic tournament in her home Grand Slam.
On her partnership with the 62-year-old, she revealed: “I was worried about being with the older person, to be honest, before I met Brad.
“He’s older but he still has the mind of, like, a 20-year-old, maybe even younger, a 10-year-old kid sometimes. The guy has offered me Jolly Ranchers. I don’t know if you knew this.
“My favourite Brad story is he played pretty much every match with a Jolly Rancher in his mouth.
“He’s been giving me Jolly Ranchers all the time. I take them but I don’t eat them. At this point, I can’t have Jolly Ranchers every five minutes. So that’s my favourite Brad story.”.
Whatever the secret to her new form is, if Gauff becomes only the second American not called Williams to win the US Open in two decades you can bet she’ll be a little bit more than jolly…
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