When Coco Gauff beat Venus Williams at Wimbledon in 2019, a flood of expectations followed considering she was 15, American, Black, and had just ousted tennis royalty. The talent and potential was obvious enough, yet there are too many variables and unknowns to account for that calling anything a forgone conclusion is foolish.
For casual fans, Gauff’s first Grand Slam — a 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Aryna Sabalenka on Saturday — was validation of her career arc. She’s just the third American teenager to win the US Open, joining Serena Williams and Tracy Austin, and now she’ll go on to become the new face of women’s tennis and continue the tradition of dominance that Serena and Venus established.
Something similar is assumed of Carlos Alcaraz on the men’s side, and how did that work out Friday? The young Spainard was outfoxed by Daniil Medvedev on Friday, and as much fun as it would’ve been to get Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic in the final again, I’m more excited to see what the 20-year-old learns. He doesn’t play the same brand of tennis as the greats he’s following, and Coco is unique in her own right as well.
It’s certainly likely that she’ll be a force in the sport because her tenacity matches her game. She’s been one of the best players on tour since a coaching change after Wimbledon this year, and is still in the toddler stages of her career.
The way Gauff bounced back after dropping the first set Saturday in Queens displayed the kind of drive, guile, and poise that it takes to win multiple slams. It wasn’t Serena or even Venus though. There was physicality, but nothing to the extent of Serena’s power, and while Gauff has touches of Venus’ grace, it’s hard to make that much running look effortless.
No, Saturday was Coco realizing her power set at the end of her origin story.
She was indefatigable, chasing everything from side to side, and making the Belarusian hit perfect winners. Sabalenka had a bevy of unforced errors that were forced by Gauff’s sheer will to make her hit a shot that Coco couldn’t reach.
Once Gauff adjusted to the power on the other side of the court, and got her service game going, she surfed the roars of the crowd to the win. From the first round through to the final, she overmatched each opponent, and it was a joy to see it come to this conclusion, because nothing is quite as fun as watching someone realize their dreams in real time for the first time.
Coco is still only 19, and all of those unforeseen obstacles haven’t gone anywhere. God willing, she’ll have a long and illustrious career, but it’s not guaranteed. The journey over the past four years is a great story in its own right, and what she’s done is more than a lot of people can boast.
Tennis is incredibly lucky to have Gauff and Carlos Alcaraz as its queen and king in waiting, yet it would be boring if they came in and tried to replicate what Venus, Serena, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Djokovic did. Ideally, both kiss many more trophies, but on their own terms.
What good is a sequel if it’s just the same story with different characters?
Texas won the biggest game of this young college football season Saturday in Tuscaloosa, ending No. 3 Alabama’s home winning streak in the process with a 34-24 win. Quinn Ewers played great for the Longhorns, throwing for 349 and three scores, and forcing Tide QB Jalen Milroe to try to go throw for throw with him.
That did not happen, as Bryce Young’s replacement completed 14 of 27 passes, threw two picks, and was a little jumpy in the pocket. Some of that was due to the UT defensive front, but after an ugly first interception, new Bama offensive coordinator Tommy Rees seemed hesitant to go back to the passing game.
After Alabama took its first lead of the game late in the third quarter on Milroe’s best throw of the night, Texas answered in three plays to go back ahead, 20-16. On the very first play of Alabama’s ensuing drive, Milroe threw another egregious pick, and the Longhorns scored to put the contest away for all intents and purposes.
Judging by the performance of the Tide’s secondary, Alabama might need more points than a typical Nick Saban team, and now there are going to be questions about which quarterback gives them the best option to do so, and we all know how much Saban hates questions.