Coco Gauff hopes to be the latest Black American woman to leave a history-making mark on the most sacred grounds of U.S. tennis.
She’ll face the U.S. Open’s No. 2 seed, and soon-to-be world No. 1, Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus Saturday afternoon in this Grand Slam season’s last women’s title match.
If Gauff pulls the upset win at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows, New York City, she’ll etch her name into the history books alongside other Black American women’s tennis icons like Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Althea Gibson.
Gibson won the U.S. National Championship women’s singles titles in 1957 and 1958, a forerunner of the U.S. Open. Venus, the older Williams sister, won the U.S. Open in 2001 and 2002 while Serena took the championships of 1999, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Those six U.S. Open singles titles by Serena Williams are only matched by Chris Evert’s half-dozen championships in the tournament’s modern era, 1975-78 and 1980 and 1982.
Coming into Saturday, Gauff, 19, of Florida, has won five singles titles but is still chasing a title in one of the world’s four major tournaments (the U.S., French and Australian Opens and Wimbledon). She’s come close before as the French Open runner-up in 2022 and when she reached the quarterfinals in Flushing Meadows last year.
Moments after punching her ticket to Saturday’s final, Gauff said she’s happy to be in the title match but made it clear that’s not enough.
“It means a lot to be in the final, a lot to celebrate. But, you know, the job is not done,” Gauff told cheering American supporters shortly after her semifinal triumph Thursday night. “So hopefully you guys can back me on Saturday.”
It’ll be an uphill climb to topple Sabalenka, the tournament’s second seed and world No. 2.
The tournament’s top seed and world No. 1, Iga Swiatek of Poland, was upset Sunday by Jelena Ostapenko, all but assuring Sabalenka the top spot when new rankings come out next week.
Sabalenka, 25, won her semifinal match early Friday morning, with a three-set triumph over American Madison Keys. Sabalenka, this year’s Australian Open winner, acknowledged the New York crowd crowd will be solidly behind the American Gauff.
“She’s an unbelievable player. She’s playing really incredible tennis here at the U.S. Open and the crowd will be supporting her a lot. It’s something I am expecting,” Sabalenka told fans early Friday.
“This is nothing crazy. I’ll just go there and just do everything I can. I’ll be there, I’ll be fighting for every point.”
It’ll be warm during Saturday’s title match, but not the withering conditions that have plagued this tournament.
It should be in the low 80s when the first ball is served at about 4 p.m. in Queens.
It’s been in the mid- to high-90s for much of play and Russian player Daniil Medvedev issued a dire warning earlier this week about the brutal conditions.
“You cannot imagine,” he said. “One player [is] gonna die, and they’re gonna see.”
Saturday’s title match will be televised by ESPN which might be leave millions of Spectrum TV subscribers in the dark.
ESPN and other Disney properties were pulled from Charter Communication’s Spectrum a week ago Thursday night in an ongoing carriage fee dispute.
Charter/Spectrum is the nation’s second biggest cable provider, with a sizable share of the New York and Los Angeles markets.