'Grateful' Coco Gauff seeing the big picture at 2022 WTA Finals
She's the youngest player in 17 years, and youngest American in nearly three decades, to qualify for the WTA's season-ending championships. But for Coco Gauff, her debut at the WTA Finals is just another day in the life.
On the strength of a 2022 season that saw her reach her first Grand Slam singles final at Roland Garros, and ascend to the world No. 1 doubles ranking thanks to success with fellow American Jessica Pegula, Gauff will make her debut in both singles and doubles at women's tennis' showpiece event next week. Maria Sharapova was the last 18-year-old to qualify for the WTA Finals back in 2005, and no American younger than Gauff has competed in the WTA's grand finale since Lindsay Davenport finished as runner-up in 1994.
Seeded fourth in the eight-player field in Texas, Gauff now feels ready to ditch those 'youngest since' superlatives.
"When it comes to these statistics and stats about my age ... I mean, it's cool, but I feel like it's my life, so I don't look at it as amazing or outstanding as other people look at it," Gauff told reporters on Saturday in Fort Worth.
"I've gotten asked that a lot about different things in my age. But it is always crazy to me when I find somebody brings up a stat or something about my age, and I feel like almost every tournament is a new thing. It's going to be somebody else's turn soon.
"But for the most part, I just don't really pay attention to it because it's my life, so I don't feel like I'm doing anything. When I'm stepping on the court, my opponent, at least I don't think they look at me any different because I'm younger."
The 2022 Roland Garros finalist didn't officially cement her spot in the field until the last week of the regular season, as did four others. She enters the event ranked a career-best No. 4 in singles, and No. 2 in doubles, and she and Pegula are the first Americans to play in both draws at the WTA Finals since Serena and Venus Williams a decade ago.
Making it to Fort Worth twice over is another highlight in a year that's been full of them, and it's one that Gauff isn't taking lightly.
"I think it proves, just shows my improvement throughout the years," Gauff said. "I busted onto the scene in a very big way, and a lot of people were having opinions on whether or not I would do well or not. I think this just proves that all the work that I've put in is paying off. Obviously, I want to go further. The WTA Finals is not where I want this chapter to end. I think it just shows that I'm progressing. Sometimes, I forget that I am.
"I think it allows me to take a step back and realize that I am one of the top eight players in the world, and I should be grateful for that."
In Saturday's official draw, Gauff was drawn into a round-robin group named for another prodigious American, Tracy Austin, alongside world No. 1 Iga Swiatek; US Open semifinalist Caroline Garcia; and Daria Kasatkina, a winner of two titles in 2022. Though she takes a losing head-to-head record against both Swiatek and Kasatkina into the group stage, and lost her last match to Garcia in the US Open quarterfinals in September, Gauff's not thinking about the past. Rather, she's living in the moment of her latest achievement.
"I think I'm just going to have a lot of fun regardless of how it goes," Gauff said. "Obviously I want to win, but I'm just going to focus on enjoying this. This is my first time playing this tournament. Hopefully, I'll be here many more WTA Finals in the future, but I'm just going to enjoy the first one."
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