TEENAGER GAUFF RISES TO ITF JUNIOR WORLD NO. 1
Talented 14-year-old Coco Gauff has big ambitions and an equally impressive game.
The Florida teenager has long said that she wants to be the best player in the world. And earlier this week, Gauff checked off another prominent milestone: junior world No. 1.
Following a run to the quarterfinals of the girls’ junior event at Wimbledon, Gauff climbed to the top of the rankings ahead of countrywoman Whitney Osuigwe to become the 32nd player, and the sixth American, to hold the honor.
At 14 years, four months and three days old, Gauff becomes the youngest girls’ junior No. 1 since the rankings system was changed in 2004.
The record was previously held by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who was 14 years, six months and 27 days old when she topped the rankings on Jan. 30, 2006.
The ITF introduced the new rankings system, which combines performances in singles and doubles, on Jan. 1, 2004, to replace the previous rankings that kept singles and doubles play separate. The change was made in an effort to encourage juniors to play doubles, with the hope that they would continue to compete in doubles when they progressed to the professional tour.
Since reaching the final of the US Open girls' tournament last September – she was the youngest player to ever contest the championship match – Gauff has put together an outstanding year. She won her first junior Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, lifted the trophy at the Grade 1 grass-court Junior International Roehampton event in London, England, and reached the semifinals at the hard-court Grade 1 tournament in Traralgon, Australia.
Gauff’s ranking points total is calculated from her best six singles results plus a percentage of her best doubles performances over the past year. And while she has primarily focused her attention on singles play, the teen also reached the Wimbledon semifinals and French Open quarterfinals in two of her past three doubles tournaments.
Such is Gauff’s dominance, she is one of only three players born in 2004 or later in the Top 300 of the girls’ rankings. She is one of four Americans in the Top 10 – along with former world No. 1 and current No. 2 Osuigwe, No. 6 Alexa Noel and No. 8 Caty McNally. In total, there are 10 Americans in the world's Top 50 and 17 in the Top 100.
Should Gauff end the year at No. 1, she will join Osuigwe (2017), CiCi Bellis (2014) and Taylor Townsend (2012) as American ITF Junior World Champions, an honor awarded to the player with the highest points total at the end of the calendar year and presented during the ITF World Champions Dinner in Paris during the French Open.
Next up for Gauff is the girls’ junior event at the US Open, which kicks off Sunday, Sept. 2, in New York. The past 21 major girls’ junior titles have been won by 21 different players, but the Florida teenager will enter as one of the favorites to stop that trend and win her second Slam crown.
The ITF Junior Circuit is restricted to players aged 13-18. WTA Tour rules prohibit players under the age of 14 from participating in any sanctioned WTA Tour event and then only up to eight ITF events before a player's 15th birthday.
Gauff, who has played 10 junior tournaments in her career, competed in her first two USTA Pro Circuit events in May and June this year, coming through three rounds of qualifying both times to reach the second rounds of the $25,000 events in Osprey, Fla., and Baton Rouge, La.
On Tuesday, less than 24 hours after moving to the top spot in the ITF junior rankings, Gauff was presented with the key to the city of Delray Beach, Fla., where she lives and trains. Gauff started playing tennis on the courts at Delray’s Pompey Park, a place the teenager calls home.