Coco Gauff became the seventh teenage champion of the 2021 season, doing it style at the Emilia-Romagna Open, in Parma, Italy. The 17-year-old became the youngest woman to sweep singles and doubles at a WTA event since Maria Sharapova at 2004 Birmingham. She is the second player to sweep this season, following in the footsteps of No.1 Ashleigh Barty, who won both titles in Stuttgart.
En route to her second career title and first on clay, Gauff lost just one set over the week and dominated Wang Qiang, 6-1, 6-3 in the final. She then teamed up with Caty McNally to defeat No.2 seeds Darja Jurak and Andreja Klepac, 6-3, 6-2.
A junior Roland Garros champion in 2018, Gauff says she's finally settled on her relationship with clay.
"It's not a surface that people associate me with, so it feels good," Gauff told reporters after her successful Saturday. "I like the dirt now. I always talk about how I don't like it, but I like it now."
"Clay shows you a little extra love than the other surfaces do. It's just going home, taking a shower, and I have clay coming out of me from all different places, or clay still in my clothes from weeks later. So that's the only thing I don't like about it. But obviously, performance-wise I do well on it."
7 players have now won their 1st WTA titles in 2021:— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) May 22, 2021
🇩🇰 Clara Tauson: Lyon
🇪🇸 Sara Sorribes Tormo: Guadalajara
🇨🇦 Leylah Fernandez: Monterrey
🇨🇴 Maria Camila Osorio Serrano: Bogotá
🇷🇺 Veronika Kudermetova: Charleston 500
🇦🇺 Astra Sharma: Charleston 250
🇪🇸 Paula Badosa: Belgrade
With her title in Parma, Gauff will rise to a career-high ranking at No.25 on Monday. At Roland Garros, she will be seeded at a Slam for the first time in her career and will be the youngest seed at a major since Nicole Vaidisova at 2006 Wimbledon and youngest at Roland Garros since 2006 (also Vaidisova).
"I feel really good about going into the French," Gauff said. "I hope I can continue to build and keep getting better. I have a week and a day to get ready.
"I feel like I'm hitting good, moving good, my body feels good, my mentality and emotionally I feel good. So I think it will be a good tournament for me."
2nd WTA singles title and 3rd doubles title!!! All in one day 🤝😁 pic.twitter.com/hC7F7yOEvc— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) May 22, 2021
Gauff has every reason to feel confident heading to Paris. Since the Australian Open, Gauff has compiled a 20-6 record across all levels. The last four months has seen her check off more career milestones. She advanced to her first WTA 500 semifinal at the Adelaide International. Then came her first WTA 1000 quarterfinal at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in March.
After starting her strong clay season with a quarterfinal run at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston, Gauff booked her first WTA 1000 semifinal at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome. A week later, she was holding her first trophy earned on clay.
"I learned a lot about committing to my decisions and my shots," Gauff said, when asked about her recent improvements. "I feel like sometimes in the past I would try to push my way out to the finish line but now I feel like I'm really keeping my foot on the gas pedal the whole match. That's something I've been working on.
"I think it's common because in the beginning when I started the tour I didn't really trust my decisions because playing professionally compared to juniors is a completely different game, so I didn't really know what I was doing. Now with more matches behind me, I have a better feeling of how I want to play."
After a few days of rest after Parma, Gauff will get right back to work in Paris, which she says is her favorite city in the world.
"Paris was the first city I visited out of the country," Gauff explained. "I visited when I was 10 and ever since then I loved it. Just walking around, I just feel happy there. I don't know what makes me like it, but it just draws me to it. France as a whole has been like a second home for me. I spend a lot of time at the Mouratoglou Academy.
"For me, I like to be home when I can so I think it's a home away from home. It gives me that feeling that I'm at home even when I'm not. So France as a whole is like a second home country for me."