At New York’s USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, under the closed roof of Arthur Ashe (there had been some bad weather earlier in the day), sixth-seeded Coco Gauff, of the United States, and second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, of Belarus, faced off in a nerve-racking US Open final. But after a thrilling three sets, 19-year-old Gauff came away the victor, besting Sabalenka 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. Marking Gauff’s second career major final and first Grand Slam title—she was the runner-up at last year’s French Open, losing to Iga Swiatek—today’s match also made her the US Open’s third American teenage champion ever, after Tracy Austin and Serena Williams.
In front of a (very loud) crowd, sprinkled with the likes of Nicole Kidman, Diane Keaton, Laura Dern, Spike Lee, Charlize Theron, Ellen Pompeo, Mariska Hargitay, Laverne Cox, Al Roker, Maria Sharapova, and Andy Roddick, both players put on a mighty show, answering awesome power (mostly from Sabalenka) with head-spinning court coverage (mostly from Gauff).
The 25-year-old Belarusian quickly pulled ahead in the first set, breaking Gauff’s very first service game and taking a 6-2 lead. But Gauff came back swinging in the second: After looking a little down—the cameras caught her plaintively telling her box “I’m trying” between tough points—she rallied, overcoming a wobbly forehand to get up 5-2. Sabalenka, the reigning Australian Open champion and current world number one, did not back down, firmly holding her next service game—but the crowd was on its feet when Gauff closed out the set 6-3. Her approach to the match, until then mostly defensive, had shifted into an entirely new gear.
The top of the third set was electric, kicking off with a break of serve (Gauff of Sabalenka’s) that once again sent the stands into a tizzy. Then, it was the Coco Show: Gauff plunged ahead to a 4-0 lead, with Sabalenka—somewhat diminished but hardly defeated—finally getting back on the board in the fifth game and then winning a break. But Gauff was quick to wrap things up, cinching the champion point and instantly dropping to the ground (before swiftly scaling the stands to hug her parents, Corey and Candi).