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US OPEN ’19: Coco Gauff, 15, part of crop of young Americans

August 23, 2019
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FILE - In this July 5, 2019, file photo, United States' Cori "Coco" Gauff reacts after winning a point against Slovenia's Polona Hercog in a Women's singles match during day five of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London. Gauff is just 15 but got into the main draw for the U.S. Open, which starts next week, thanks to a wild-card invitation after her surprising run to the fourth round at Wimbledon. She is one of a group of young Americans making strides in tennis lately. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)
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FILE - In this July 5, 2019, file photo, United States' Cori "Coco" Gauff reacts after winning a point against Slovenia's Polona Hercog in a Women's singles match during day five of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London. Gauff is just 15 but got into the main draw for the U.S. Open, which starts next week, thanks to a wild-card invitation after her surprising run to the fourth round at Wimbledon. She is one of a group of young Americans making strides in tennis lately. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

Just like many tennis fans, Coco Gauff’s father expects a lot from his precocious, 15-year-old daughter.

Makes sense, given the way she swings a racket on a tennis court and handles herself away from one.

“Even after I win a tournament, he’ll let me celebrate, but then he’s like, ‘It’s back to work.’ And I understand why,” Gauff said. “Because, like, I mean, it’s just one tournament of many.”

Next up for Gauff is the U.S. Open, which starts Monday, and she’s in the main draw by virtue of a wild-card entry received after making quite a run at Wimbledon. First, Gauff became that venerable event’s youngest qualifier in history. Then she wowed the world by stunning Venus Williams. Next came a victory over a 2017 All England Club semifinalist. That was followed by a comeback victory, erasing two match points on Centre Court, to reach the fourth round and make her the story of the fortnight.

“There’s some 15-year-olds, like me, who wouldn’t know what to do at Wimbledon,” said Williams’ younger sister, Serena. “Then you have a 15-year-old like Coco, who knows what to do.”

There are those who’ve wondered what will happen to American women’s tennis once the Williams siblings leave the scene with their as-of-now 30 Grand Slam singles titles. But there seems to be plenty to look forward to, because Gauff is hardly the only young U.S. pro making strides lately.

Amanda Anisimova (who will miss the U.S. Open because of her father’s recent death) reached the French Open semifinals in June at age 17. Sofia Kenin, 20, eliminated Serena Williams in Paris and just picked up hard-court tuneup wins against No. 1s Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka.

Caty McNally, 17, teamed with Gauff to win the Citi Open doubles title in August, also reached the semifinals in singles there, and she, too, is headed to Flushing Meadows thanks to a wild card.

There’s also a trio of 21-year-old American men showing signs of progress this season: Reilly Opelka, Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz.

The female set is drawing more attention, though, and McNally doesn’t think the recent surge is a coincidence.

“When one person does well, it just kind of pushes the other people,” she said, “and shows them that they can be in the same place and do the same thing.”

Here’s a quick look at Gauff and other young Americans:

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COCO GAUFF

Born: March 13, 2004

From: Born in Florida; raised in Georgia; based in Florida

Ranking: 141

2019 Record: 21-12

Grand Slam Record: 3-1

U.S. Open Main Draw Record: 0-0

Biggest Accomplishments: Fourth-round run at Wimbledon; U.S. Open junior runner-up; French Open junior champion

What She Said: “I’m not going to ... take it easy on myself because of this recent success. I think I’m just going to keep my mind focused, because I can see how easy it can get to say, ‘Oh, I already did this at 15, so I can maybe lay it back.’” — Gauff on wanting to improve after Wimbledon.

What They Said: “Terrific ingredients to be a future champion.” — Tracy Austin, who won the first of her two U.S. Open titles at age 16.

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CATY MCNALLY

Born: Nov. 20, 2001

From: Born and based in Ohio

Ranking: 121

2019 Record: 23-12

Grand Slam Record: 0-1

U.S. Open Main Draw Record: 0-0

Biggest Accomplishments: Qualified for Wimbledon; Singles semifinalist and doubles champion (with Gauff) at Citi Open WTA tournament; U.S. Open junior doubles champion (with Gauff)

What She Said: “It just shows me — because I’ve played really close with her and I’ve had chances to win — that I’m right there, too, and I can do the same thing.” — McNally on seeing what Gauff did at Wimbledon.

What They Said: “More proof of why I believe the future of the sport is really incredibly promising.” — Mark Ein, who manages the Citi Open.

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AMANDA ANISMOVA

Born: Aug. 31, 2001

From: Born in New Jersey; based in Florida

Ranking: 24

2019 Record: 23-13

Grand Slam Record: 9-5

U.S. Open Main Draw Record: 0-1

Biggest Accomplishments: French Open semifinalist, beating defending champion Simona Halep; fourth round at Australian Open; WTA title at Bogota, Colombia; U.S. Open junior champion

What She Said: “I actually kind of miss juniors, but, I mean, this is a new phase. It’s my first year having a full schedule on tour. It’s definitely something that I’m getting used to.” — Anisimova on life as a pro.

What They Said: “She was pretty calm. She showed that she’s able to do good things — and big things.” — Halep, after losing in straight sets to Anisimova.

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SOFIA KENIN

Born: Nov. 14, 1998

From: Born in Russia; based in Florida

Ranking: 20

2019 Record: 35-17

Slam Record: 9-10

Biggest Accomplishments: Fourth-round showing at French Open at age 20, beating 23-time major champion Serena Williams; won WTA titles on clay and hard courts at 20.

What She Said: “I have always had the belief. That’s who I am. ... I like to get the crowd going. I like to pump myself up.” — after her straight-set victory over Williams.

What They Said: “She’s a machine, I’m telling you. ... I don’t think she ever misses a ball.” — Andrea Petkovic, a former top-10 player who has been Kenin’s doubles partner.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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