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Coco Gauff, Alcaraz sign generational shift in tennis



For many years, millennials and Gen Xers have celebrated the tennis legends of their generations like Venus and Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Roger Federer. However now Gen Zers are staking declare on their very own tennis stars after Coco Gauff and Carlos Alcaraz dominated public consideration at this yr’s U.S. Open, which concludes this weekend.

Gauff, 19, and Alcaraz, 20 captured world headlines for his or her younger age and prowess on the court docket, very like their predecessors of their primes, corresponding to 41-year-old Williams and 37-year-old Nadal, whom they’ve drawn comparisons to. However Williams retired after final yr’s U.S. Open and Nadal is making ready to hold up his racket after a deliberate comeback from damage subsequent yr, positioning Gauff and Alcaraz because the faces of a generational shift within the sport.

Ivan Ljubičić, former Croatian tennis participant and former coach of now retired famous person Federer, who, at 42, is a part of Gen X, says the passing of the torch will occur quickly. 

“Clearly the generational change is one step away, however for the whole change I’d wait a second longer,” Ljubičić mentioned earlier this yr

Serena to Coco

Gauff is drawing comparisons to her fellow American and 23-time Grand Slam winner Williams. Each ladies went professional on the age of 14. And Gauff secured a spot within the finals of the U.S. Open on Thursday, making her the youngest American to achieve this stage of the competitors since Williams, who gained in 1999 on the age of 17. Profitable this yr’s U.S. Open can be Gauff’s first ever Grand Slam title.

However the comparability goes past their prominence as Black athletes in a predominantly white sport. Gauff, who’s ladies’s world No. 6, went viral on social media final week after confronting an umpire who turned a blind eye to her 35-year-old German opponent allegedly breaking the principles throughout their match. Individuals on-line, in addition to the Obamas, praised Gauff for standing up for herself and for her maturity in dealing with the state of affairs. 

Williams, equally, had a infamous outburst on the 2018 U.S. Open, accusing the umpire of questioning her integrity and penalizing her extra severely than he would male gamers.

The 2 by no means went head-to-had in an expert match, however Gauff has defeated Williams’ older sister, seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams, twice: At Wimbledon in 2019 when Gauff was 15 and the next yr on the 2020 Australian Open, the place she additionally beat the previous No. 1-ranked Naomi Osaka.

Gauff resists the comparisons to Serena Williams, though she acknowledges it as an important honor.

“Serena is Serena. She’s the GOAT,” Gauff mentioned in an ESPN interview on Thursday. “I hope to do half of what she does, however I’m not going to match myself to her—she’s somebody I look as much as.”

Gauff added that she’s “pleased to be a product of her legacy,” and mentioned the one remorse in her profession shall be by no means taking part in in opposition to Williams.

Rafael to Carlos

From Spain, Alcaraz is the males’s world No. 1. He has drawn related comparisons to the 22-time Grand Slam winner and former No. 1-ranked Nadal, from their shared nationality to their related kinds of play. Alcaraz has confronted Nadal on the court docket 3 times, successful their third match within the 2022 Madrid Open quarter ultimate 6-2, 1-6, 6-3. 

Maybe Alcaraz, who misplaced within the semifinals on Friday to Russian Daniil Medvedev, hasn’t gained as a lot consideration as Gauff amongst U.S. social media customers, however he’s a favourite of his fellow U.S. Open rivals. {Many professional} tennis gamers don’t pay shut consideration to matches that aren’t theirs—they hold busy working towards, recovering, consuming, and speaking to the press—however Alcaraz appears to be the exception.

“I don’t watch quite a bit,” Iga Swiatek, ladies’s world No. 1, informed the Wall Avenue Journal earlier than she was eradicated from the U.S. Open. “However these matches I truly watch from the start until the tip.”

Gauff was taking note of Alcaraz, too. 

“If he can smile, he’s No. 1 on the planet and he has all this stress,” she mentioned in a press convention on Wednesday. “Then… the place I’m thought of the underdog on paper, I can smile too.”

She and different tennis stars tuned into Alcaraz’s practically four-hour match in opposition to No. 2-ranked Djokovic, the all-time male Grand Slam chief with 23 titles, on the hard-court Cincinnati Masters in August. The 36-year-old millennial reigned supreme in Ohio, however Alcaraz defeated solely him a month earlier at Wimbledon when he grabbed his second Grand Slam title.

“They’re breaking the bounds of tennis,” Gauff described it.

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