July 5.

In 15-year-old American Coco Gauff, we may be seeing the debut of the next truly great women’s tennis player.

That may be a radically premature assessment as she plays in just the third round (as I write) of her first professional major tournament main draw. And of course, it is in some sense unfair to place the pressure of such speculation on the shoulders of a mid-teen.

Still, I can’t help myself. I interviewed the then-14-year-old Monica Seles as she reached the semifinals of her first-ever professional tournament in 1988. Gauff has the same “can’t miss” vibe that Seles did then, but with much greater, more adult composure in handling interviews than the nervously giggling Seles.

As this is being written, Gauff has fought back from a 3-6, 2-5 deficit to take the second set 7-6 and lead 4-1 in the third against Slovenian Polona Hercog. She saved two match points to get here, and twice, at key occasions, she remained alive in rallies after it looked for all the world as if a shot was already past her at the baseline. Gauff covers amazing amounts of ground on the court, gliding in a way reminiscent of men’s all-time great Roger Federer.

Sure, we’ve seen terrific 14- and 15-year-olds on the women’s tour before — Seles, Tracy Austin, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis — but it’s been some 24 years since one has appeared this good, this young. What’s impressive, for a tennis aficionado, is that Gauff doesn’t merely rely on one skill but has an all-around game. Forehand, backhand, topspin, slice, baseline, net, patience, judgment: She’s proficient with all of it. Plus, her competitiveness and grit are astonishing.

Okay, pardon the interruption. Now it’s 4-4 in the final set. She barely missed, by centimeters, several key shots in a row. But on TV, they report she is the single hottest trending subject on all of Twitter at the moment. …

[The full published blog post is here.]


Tags: , , ,