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Coco Gauff has a message for her younger self after winning the first Grand Slam of her tennis career

Coco Gauff poses with her trophy after winning the 2023 US Open.
Coco Gauff poses with her trophy after winning the 2023 US Open.
  • Coco Gauff beat Aryna Sabalenka 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 to win the 2023 US Open women's singles title.
  • The 19-year-old reflected on what she'd tell her younger self after winning her first Grand Slam.
  • Gauff told Insider she always had a dream, but she didn't always believe in herself.

NEW YORK — Coco Gauff realized a lifelong dream this weekend when she won her first career Grand Slam.

The 19-year-old American tennis star beat world No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 Saturday to win the 2023 US Open women's singles title in front of an adoring crowd in New York City. Just 11 years prior, Gauff was an elementary schooler dancing in the stands at the very same tournament — in the very same arena — hoping she'd someday compete on the court below.

"Man, I don't even know — that little girl, she had the dream, but I don't know if she fully believed it," Gauff told Insider after the match. "As a kid, you have so many dreams. As you get older sometimes it can fiddle away."

"I would tell her: 'don't lose that dream,'" she added.

Gauff admitted that, at several points along her journey from an 8-year-old fan at Arthur Ashe Stadium to one of the best players on the planet at 19 years old, she "lost a little bit of the dream" that first propelled her to tennis glory. She'd encourage her younger self to "keep working hard" and refuse to allow "the doubters diminish" her self-belief.

Rough moments that affected her confidence

Gauff cited the beginning of the pandemic and the days after her 2023 Citi Open victory in Washington DC as "rough" moments she still "had the belief, but it wasn't fully there."

Even her initial breakout moment in tennis' top ranks became a point of doubt for the young star. At just 15 years old, Gauff upset seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams in the first round of Wimbledon and advanced all the way to the fourth round of the tournament.

"I just felt like people were like 'Oh, she's hit her peak and she's done. It was all hype,'" Gauff said Saturday. "I see the comments. People don't think I see it but I see it."

coco gauff venus williams
Coco Gauff (right) shakes hands with Venus Williams after beating the seven-time Grand Slam champion at Wimbledon in 2019.

"Honestly, after that, I was, 'Okay, I have a lot of work to do,'" she added.

That 2019 Wimbledon run prompted sponsors to invest millions of dollars in her success and countless fans to flock to her matches. Unsurprisingly, the teenager started to feel an undue pressure to perform.

The mindset shift that changed her game

The weight of those expectations began to sap much of the fun from the sport she loved. But late in the summer of 2023, something clicked; Gauff experienced a mindset shift that not only helped her play the best tennis of her career, but also helped her enjoy the sport again.

Coco Gauff celebrates after punching her ticket to the 2023 US Open final.
Coco Gauff celebrates after punching her ticket to the 2023 US Open final.

She told Insider "just putting my life into perspective" has made all the difference.

"I used to think negative things like 'Why is there so much pressure, why is this so hard, blah, blah, blah,'" Gauff told Insider. "I realize in a way it's pressure, but it's not. I mean, there are people struggling to feed their families, people who don't know where their next meal is going to come from, people who have to pay their bills. That's real pressure, that's real hardship, that's real life."

"I'm in a very privileged position," she added. "I'm getting paid to do what I love and getting support to do what I love. That's something that I don't take for granted."

Gauff wishes she discovered that perspective earlier in her career and avoided the years she spent agonizing over the feeling that she'd let her sponsors, her fans, and herself down.

But it's easy to forget — even for Gauff herself, apparently — that she's only 19 years old and clearly wise beyond her years.

"This means a lot to me," she said Saturday. "I wish I could give this trophy to my past self so she can be like 'All those tears are for this moment.'"

Read the original article on Insider

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