Editor's note: From Monday to Thursday this week, we will look at the road each of the eight singles players and eight doubles took to qualify for this year's WTA Finals in Fort Worth, Texas.
Season at a glance
Coco Gauff will remember her 2022 season as the year she graduated -- on and off the court. The 18-year-old American became the youngest player to qualify for the WTA Finals since Maria Sharapova, finishing the regular season with a career-high ranking at No.4. Gauff and her doubles partner Jessica Pegula finished the year in the Top 4, the first time two Americans ranked in the Top 4 since Serena Williams and Venus Williams in 2010.
"I think I've gradually gotten better and better each year," Gauff told WTA Insider. "I think that's what I'm most proud of.
"I think when I first came on the scene, everyone thought it was just one and done. So I'm just happy that I'm able to prove that I'm a Top 10 player on tour and I don't have to think about that now. Hopefully, one day we can get the big trophy."
The turning point of Gauff's campaign came during the clay season. Since her breakout run as a 15-year-old at 2019 Wimbledon, she has been aware of the hype. Touted as the next Serena Williams and future of American tennis, it was an unfair burden on the shoulders of a prodigy who was still trying to make her way on the tour.
But after taking a particularly tough loss in the third round of the Madrid Open, Gauff decided to face the pressure head on, instead of pretending it wasn't there.
"That's why I say not every loss is a loss," Gauff said. "As long as you learn from it, it can be a win, too."
A few weeks later, Gauff donned her cap and gown and posed with her family in front of the Eiffel Tower to celebrate her high school graduation. What seemed like a fun family day would turn out to be a pivotal moment.
"It felt like a momentum shift," Gauff said. "I accomplished something off the court, so I felt fulfilled and I felt good about myself. I think it translated into my game. When you're not dealing with school and you feel good about something other than tennis, it makes your self-confidence go up."
That confidence was on full display at Roland Garros, where Gauff marched through the draw to make her first major final. She was the youngest player to make a major final since 2004 and the youngest American since Williams in 1999.
Gauff continued her consistency through the end of the regular, finishing with three consecutive quarterfinal finishes, including her first at the US Open.