Coco Gauff is within touching distance of US Open glory, but the 19-year-old from Florida is still treating it like the tournament has only just begun.
The No 6 seed dropped just two games as she defeated 20-seeded Jelena Ostapenko 6-0 6-2 in Tuesday’s quarter-final clash, becoming the first teenage American to reach the last four at Flushing Meadows since Serena Williams in 2001.
It is the second time Gauff has reached this stage in one of the sport’s Grand Slam events, but she is not allowing herself to think she is close to claiming what would be the biggest title of her career to date.
“The dreams never came with the people in the stands and autographs,” Gauff said. “That was never in the dreams, it was just, like, the trophy.
“Even though by the semi-finals, in theory, if you want to win, there’s two matches left, you can’t think like that.
“I’m still in the mindset that I’m in the beginning of the tournament. That’s what I have learned in the past being in quarter-finals: Before, I would think, ‘Close to the end’.
“But right now, I have the mentality that I told myself, ‘I still have another two weeks to play’. So that’s where my mind is at. Then, obviously when it’s over, it’s over. But right now, I’m just saying, ‘Another two weeks’.”
This was the 16th victory in her past 17 matches for Gauff, who will face No 10 seed Karolina Muchova on Thursday for a place in the final.
She has already experienced playing in the decider of a major at Roland Garros in 2022, only to lose on that occasion to Iga Swiatek, who Ostapenko had defeated in her previous match.
Gauff reached the quarter-finals in France again this year, but exited the Australian Open in round four and suffered a shock early exit at Wimbledon to qualifier and compatriot Sofia Kenin when seeded seventh.
Outside of the Grand Slams, this year has seen Gauff claim her first WTA 500 and WTA 1000 singles titles at the Washington Open and Cincinnati Open respectively, and she credited those successes with helping her.
“I think doing well in those tournaments built my mental endurance,” Gauff said. “I always had the physical endurance, but it built my mental endurance.
“Right now, I feel emotionally fresh, which I think was the problem in the past in Grand Slams, I would emotionally be drained. Obviously, I’m physically fresh and emotionally fresh, and I think that just came from experience.
“Today was the best match I’ve played, for sure. Even though it wasn’t how I like to play, against her it’s so hard to be the aggressor sometimes.
“So, I think that, like, the decision-making that I’m making is probably the best I’ve had, and I feel really confident in all my strokes.”
Gauff knows there is extra expectation and focus on her in her home tournament, along with that which comes from being one of the sport’s rising stars.
However, she has been able to put all of that into perspective with a new mental approach which has seen her become determined to enjoy every moment.
“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,” Gauff said. “That’s real pressure, that’s real hardship, that’s real life.
“I know there are millions of people who probably want to be in this position that I am now, so instead of saying why this, why that, I should just be, like, why not me? Why am I not enjoying this? I should.
“I just told myself, ‘Man, I should enjoy this’. I’m having so much fun doing it. I should not think about the results and think about this. I’m living a lucky life and I’m so blessed. I don’t want to take it for granted.”
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