MADISON, S.D. (KELO) – 19-year-old tennis player Coco Gauff became the youngest American to win the U.S. Open in 24 years after she beat Aryna Sabalenka 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 this weekend. Her success and sportsmanship has become an inspiration for young tennis players in South Dakota.
“She’s only 19, so the fact that she’s been able to go so far in her tennis career and athletic journey as such a young individual is really impressive to me,” Madison High School tennis player Audrey Allen, 15, said.
Gauff is the third youngest American to win the Grand Slam Championships. She now joins Tracy Austin who won at age 16 in 1979 and Serena Williams who won the tournament in 1999 at 17 years old.
“It’s cool to see someone our age win a title like that,” 17-year-old Callie Bounds, another tennis player from Madison, said. “It shows that hard work pays off, no matter the age.”
Keera Krish, a sophomore on the Branon Valley tennis team, said she started following Gauff’s career a few years ago precisely because she was so young. Krish has been playing tennis for 10 years and said Gauff reminded her of a young Serena Williams.
“She kind of came in on the wake of Serena Williams and has just been really inspiring to me,” she said.
Gauff also gained popularity on social media as people praised the tennis player for sticking up for herself and following the rules during a recent game.
“A lot of us look up to her based on her good sportsmanship and good attitude when she’s playing on and off the court,” Bounds said.
On August 28, Gauff went viral after confronting the umpire on the first day of the U.S. Open. During Gauff and 35-year-old German qualifier Laura Siegemund’s three sets, Gauff grew frustrated that the umpire wasn’t penalizing Siegemund for stalling time or sitting down between sets, both of which are violations in the game.
“She’s never ready when I’m serving, she went over to talk like four times, you only gave her a time violation once, how is this fair?” Gauff said to the umpire. “No, you’re calling the score after the point is over, it’s not like we’re playing long points. You’re calling the score like six seconds after the point is over.”
The crowd and sport commentators later commended Gauff for calling out the umpire and Siegemund and sticking up for herself. Gauff went on to defeat the two-time Grand Slam champion with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 win.
“I love that she’s able to stick up for herself and isn’t afraid to speak out about actions that are against the rules or are penalties,” Allen said.
Gauff’s win comes during a time where women’s sports is growing in popularity. In August, Nebraska made history when more than 92,000 volleyball fans showed up to watch the Nebraska Cornhuskers take on the University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks. Also, the Women’s World Cup in August saw its viewership nearly double from 2019 with 1,980,000 million watchers.
“It seems more common for people to watch male sports than they would girls sports,” Bounds said. “Seeing good athletes that are women is opening people’s eyes that females can be really good at sports too.”