When Cori “Coco” Gauff lost her qualifying match 6-4 6-2 to Tamara Korpatsch, it seemed completely impossible. But a week later the 15-year-old U.S. tennis prodigy is lifting her first WTA singles trophy. She defeated former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 1-6 6-2 in a topsy-turvy WTA Linz final.
Gauff takes her place in history
The title win in Austria makes Gauff the fifth youngest title winner of all time on the WTA Tour. She is the youngest champion since Jennifer Capriati who won the 1990 Puerto Rico Open at 14.
The last 15-year-old to win on the tour was Tamira Paszek in 2006. With all due respect to Paszek, it would be a great shock if Gauff didn’t go on to achieve greater things in the game than the Austrian has managed.
Good schedule management allows for great success
This was the young American’s first WTA tournament since the US Open as she has to manage her schedule carefully. This is to comply with the controversial rule that limits the number of tournaments that young players are eligible to enter.
Gauff turned 15 on the 9th September and as a result the number of tournaments she can enter has increased from eight to ten. Her team have taken great advantage of this by entering both Linz and Luxembourg at this stage of the season.
Ironically, Gauff is currently meant to be playing qualifiers for WTA Luxembourg. Her mother was present for her thrilling victory in Linz only after flying to Austria from Luxembourg, having originally been expecting to watch her daughter in qualifying this weekend. She has, very wisely, been given a wild card directly into the main draw instead.
From Lucky Loser to Outstanding Winner
Gauff has been able to see off some very talented and experienced players in her run to the title.
She was granted a lucky loser pass into the draw after losing in straight sets to Korpatsch, but only dropped one set on her way to the final. This included an emphatic straight sets defeat of top 10 player Kiki Bertens.
Incredible talent, technique and composure
Sunday she took on a Grand Slam champion in the shape of Jelena Ostapenko. The pattern of the match certainly followed one typical of the young Latvian as momentum swung wildly throughout.
Gauff saved break points in the very first game and then broke Ostapenko straight away for a dream start. She showed great skill and power on serve to hold that lead to win the opening set.
All of that skill somehow seemed to desert her in the second set though as the Latvian stormed back. Gauff didn’t hold serve in the whole set as Ostapenko’s groundstrokes really began to fire. This was a big test of Gauff’s big match mentality. Could she turn the match back in her favour?
The answer became clear right at the start of the third set. Gauff held confidently and then took all of Ostapenko’s momentum away with a massively important break in game two.
From there it was all one way traffic as the prodigious power, skill and technique the world has come to know this year came together in full force.
There was a minor blip, losing match points for a 6-0 set and then a break to love when serving. In the end though, this only served to demonstrate Gauff’s great mental strength once more, as she then immediately broke Ostapenko for the fifth time in the match to seal the history-making triumph.
Luxembourg and Beyond
There will be little time for the Gauff team to bask in this glory. As mentioned earlier the teenager will now take her place in the Luxembourg main draw.
She is due to play 8th seed Anna Blinkova in the first round there, probably on Tuesday or Wednesday. Who would bet against WTA Luxembourg becoming the next in the series of Cori Gauff wins?
That really would make history.