Coco Gauff's remarkable hard-court summer continued last Sunday as she became the youngest champion in Cincinnati history.
Since she burst onto the scene as a 15-year-old at 2019 Wimbledon, Gauff was touted as the next big thing in tennis, drawing comparisons to her childhood idol Serena Williams who broke through at only 17 by winning her first of 23 Grand Slam singles titles at the 1999 US Open.
Gauff didn't quite hit those dizzying heights from the get-go nor did her career take off almost instantly towards superstardom, but she has never been closer to fulfilling her teenage promise. Having won three WTA titles, all at 250 level before this month, she came full circle in recent weeks, winning her first WTA 500 in Washington, and on Sunday, her first WTA 1000 at the 2023 Cincinnati Masters.
Gauff has had to deal with the baggage of hype throughout her career and encountered many obstacles along the way. That early promise seemed to die down and some tennis fans can be unforgiving in calling out wasted potential. After losing to Sofia Kenin in the first round of Wimbledon, it looked like she hit a snag.
But there has never been a quick turnaround sport like tennis and Gauff stepped up to a completely different dimension and level on home turf. She took the positive step to bring celebrated coach Brad Gilbert on board in her ongoing tennis development. That decision has been a masterstroke.
Out of the blue, Gauff's forehand - her Achilles heel - had been turned into a weapon of destruction. Players who took the bait into playing balls into the flank, thinking they stood a chance of drawing errors, were alarmed at how she managed to keep the ball in play and with purpose.
It's no accident that she managed to end her barren streak against Iga Swiatek, beating her at the eighth attempt en route to the title last Sunday. Having won 11 of her 12 matches in this summer's hard-court swing and bagging two of the biggest titles on offer, it does give Gauff reassurance that she has rediscovered her winning habit which escaped her in the first half of the calendar.
Gauff heads to New York where she will plot her path towards the top of the women's game. And in front of an expectant sold-out crowd, in the form she is in, anything is possible. And once again, those comparisons to Serena Williams that died down not long ago, have been rekindled, but this time they are here to stay.