PLANTATION, December 10, 2018 (USTA Press Release)
If this was the final junior tennis match Coco Gauff ever plays, then she followed her father’s advice with a flourish.
The 14-year old from Delray Beach, Fla., won the Orange Bowl Girls’ 18s singles title on Sunday, defeating China’s Qinwen Zheng, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, to become the youngest Orange Bowl Girls’ 18s singles champion in 15 years (Nicole Vaidisova was a month younger when she won it in 2003).
The victory caps a year in which Gauff won the French Open girls’ singles title, achieved the junior world No. 1 ranking and went 31-5 in junior singles matches. The last of those victories came via dramatic comeback on Sunday, and after a two-hour rain delay, no less. Gauff – down a break in the third set – broke back to level the set at four all, fought off three break points to hold on the next game and then broke Zheng again for an emphatic victory.
Your 2018 Orange Bowl girls’ 18s champ: @CocoGauff. She beats Qinwen Zheng, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, to become, at 14 years old, the youngest Orange Bowl girls’ champion since Anna Kournikova in 1995. pic.twitter.com/lzEo6UyLdD
— USTA (@usta) 9. Dezember 2018
To hear it from Gauff, that kind of ending was no coincidence, and it may have been at least partially borne out of a candid conversation with her father, Corey, earlier in the week.
“My dad told me at the beginning of the tournament, ‘This is probably your last junior tournament, so play how you want to be remembered,’” Gauff said. “And that’s how I was thinking. People mostly know me to always fight, and even when I was down, I was like, ‘That’s how I want to be remembered,’ at least in junior tennis, and see what the next chapter has for me.”
Gauff plans to start her 2019 season by playing ‘ITF World Tennis Tour 25’ professional events, and perhaps with a few more fans now than when she first arrived at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center this week.
“The crowd has been here all week for me,” Gauff said. “Clearly they were rooting for me. There were faces that have been here since Monday – not people I knew – but now I know. A lot of people showed up. I was surprised. I wasn’t expecting that, and I was expecting when it rained that no one was going to come, and people actually came back. I think that helped.
“I remembered saying this in my head: ‘All these people are here, and they are still rooting for you, and you’re down 4-2. Then you should start rooting for yourself, too,’ and I think that helped turn the match around.”
Finland’s Otto Virtanen overcame American Zane Kahn in the Boys’ 18s singles final, 7-5, 6-4.