MASON, Ohio -- Newly crowned doubles No.1 Coco Gauff woke up to a phone that was blowing up with congratulatory messages. It was only then that it dawned on her that becoming the second-youngest doubles No.1 in the history of the Hologic WTA Tour was kind of a big deal.
"It's pretty cool to be No.1 in something," Gauff 18, said Monday at the Western & Southern Open, where she is once again set to play both singles and doubles with Jessica Pegula. Not only are the duo the highest-ranked Americans in singles, they also sit at No.1 in the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals in doubles.
"People overlook [doubles] sometimes, but people forget, Serena has 23 Slams in singles but she has 14 in doubles," Gauff said. "That's why she's the greatest player, too, because she dominates both sides of the game."
#1 in the CG1🏾 pic.twitter.com/FDRjnGuYLF— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) August 15, 2022
Gauff comes off a confidence-boosting week at the National Bank Open, where she earned two tough wins against Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and former No.2 Aryna Sabalenka to make the quarterfinals. With back-to-back quarterfinals under her belt this summer, Gauff looks on pace to peak at the US Open.
"I think that's what I need, more matches, because in a Grand Slam very few people can play great the whole match for two weeks," Gauff said. "You always have one bad set or something. I think that having those matches under my belt helps.
"Even though I lost to Simona, I think that was the best tennis that I played that week in Toronto, even though I had those wins. But I think that was a step in the right direction."
As Gauff eyes a return to the US Open, she appears better equipped to handle the pressure pot that can be competitive at your home Slam. Gauff's first foray in New York in 2019 wasn't pleasant, but it was certainly memorable. Playing after her breakout Wimbledon run at 15 years old, Gauff said she went into the Open believing the hype surrounding her.
"That was so stupid for me to believe that because [Naomi Osaka] had two Grand Slams at that point, and I was 15 playing my first US Open," she said. "I believe that I can win the match, there's nothing wrong with that. But I thought that I was supposed to do something -- not believe that I could do it -- I actually thought I was expected to do it.
"Now I'm just believing in it, more than expecting it, because you have to be realistic. And I think at that time nobody was really realistic."
It was the first time that I couldn't handle the pressure… I have to be ready to have this pressure, to have this kind of moments, and to learn how to handle it! 💪🏻 pic.twitter.com/dLypEV1Ihg— Carlos Alcaraz (@carlosalcaraz) August 10, 2022
Asked about Carlos Alcaraz's post-match comments from Montreal last week that he failed to handle the pressure for the first time as a top player, Gauff had nothing but empathy and a simple piece of advice: Look in the mirror.
"I'm sure Carlos and I, for the rest of our careers, people are going to expect things from us. You almost have to embrace it.
"I never spoke to him personally about it, but watching him I feel like he embraces it. I learned a lot from watching him, believe it or not. I would watch him practice all the time and watch him play these matches when he's playing these big players. I just love the way that he went so big on those shots.
"And then at French Open, that's what I told myself. I literally said 'What would Carlos do?' I'm just going to go big and go for my shots and go for these decisions. I think that Carlos does a great job embracing it. So I feel bad for Montreal, but I'm sure he's going to turn it around [immediately] because he has greatness in him. That's not deniable."
Coping with pressure has been a challenge for Gauff, but she is the first to admit she made an important breakthrough this year. She was the most relaxed she's ever been at the French Open and was rewarded by a stellar run to her first major final. She's added more power and intention to her game, and shored up her forehand and serve under new coach Diego Moyano.
The success has been consistent ever since. She followed up her Paris run by making the Berlin semifinals.
"I feel like everybody knows I'm fast. I think sometimes I just go and just put the ball in the court because I know I can run it down. That was my old mentality.
"But now I think I'm trying to take my chances more and be more aggressive. Because playing [the old] way would definitely get me quarterfinals or fourth round in Slams. But to get to that final moment you need to take care of those details. I think I'm slowly taking care of those details."
On Tuesday, the 11th-seeded Gauff will take on Marie Bouzkova in the Round of 32 in Cincinnati.