World number three Coco Gauff said Sunday she felt more relaxed heading into the next month’s Australian Open after achieving her goal of winning a Grand Slam title as a teenager.
The 19-year-old won the US Open in September and said it was a weight off her shoulders as she embarks on her 2024 season at the Auckland Classic beginning Monday, where she is defending champion.
“I felt like I had a clock and I needed to win as a teenager,” said Gauff, who turns 20 in March.
“Just for how I started, with Wimbledon and everything, I felt like I just needed to.
“Not with anyone’s expectations from my team, but fans and people who watch the game,” she told reporters in Auckland.
Gauff burst on to the scene as 15-year-old at Wimbledon in 2019 and was earmaked as a future Grand Slam champion after reaching the fourth round.
Four years later, she came from a set down in New York to beat Aryna Sabalenka 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 and become the tournament’s first American teenage champion since Serena Williams in 1999.
“That feeling I felt on match point was a high and I want to continue to chase that high,” said Gauff.
With a first Slam tucked under her belt, she said it would be a different feeling at the Australian Open starting on January 14, which would otherwise have been the last chance to achieve her teenage dream.
“I’m always going to put pressure on myself. I want to strive for more and I don’t want to only win one,” Gauff said.
Gauff said her 2023 campaign was defined in her mind as much by her shock first-round loss to Sofia Kenin at Wimbledon as her US Open breakthrough.
“After Wimbledon I reached the lowest point of my career, losing that match,” Gauff said.
“Learning from it helped me push forward and I think sometimes you need those setbacks to push you forward.
“Not to wake me up, because I felt like I always was awake, but realise that maybe you should put less pressure on every single match.”
Gauff faces fellow American Claire Liu in her opening match in Auckland on Tuesday.