Aryna Sabalenka ended Coco Gauff's season-opening and Grand Slam-winning streak in Thursday night's Australian Open semifinals, but the American insists she can draw 'a lot of positives' from her run in Melbourne.
One of them? A 201 kmh (124.9 mph) serve she hit in the eighth game of the first set. It was the fastest serve of the women's fortnight and the third fastest in tournament history.
But for the No.4 seed, serves like that came too few and far between. Gauff landed only 54% of first serves in the 7-6(2), 6-4 defeat and double-faulted eight times. She told reporters after the match she wished she'd made a few more and that she felt it was the difference between winning and losing.
"I had chances in both sets, but she played better tonight," Gauff said. "I felt like I did my best with the game plan that I had. I think it just came down to a couple of points, and that's tennis.
"I didn't feel like I played bad. I just felt there were certain points that I just didn't win. Which I prefer this match over the last match that I played [in the quarterfinals against Marta Kostyuk]. So it's tough with the result, but I'm trying to look at the positives."
Gauff, who beat Sabalenka in the 2023 US Open final, had won her past 12 matches at Grand Slam tournaments and her first 10 matches of 2024. In Australia, she trailed 5-2 in the first set against the defending champion Sabalenka but rallied for a 6-5 lead -- and was two points away from winning the first set. She also had 0-30 on Sabalenka's serve in the eighth game of the second set.
While the No.4 seed rued some missed chances, she also credited Sabalenka for raising her level of play. The No.2 seed hit 33 winners to Gauff's 22 to beat her for the third time in seven career meetings.
"A loss is a loss," Gauff said. "At this stage, in any tournament, but especially a Grand Slam, whether I lost 1 and 1 or like I did today or in a third-set tiebreaker, I still think it would hurt just as much. I am disappointed, because I did feel good going out on the court. But at the end of the day she was the better player. She played those points better. I feel like I have a lot to improve."
The next time Gauff steps on court at a major -- at Roland Garros in May -- she'll be 20 years old. Reflecting on the first five years of her Grand Slam career in which she become the youngest American woman to win the US Open singles title since Serena Williams in 1999, Gauff said she was trying to cut through the sting of her post-loss disappointment to feel proud of her entire body of work.
"I tend to be hard on myself, so I feel like today I was, like, 'Dang,' but I think looking back of, overall, this stage of my life, it was obviously a successful time," she said.
"I saw a stat that I think I'm up there with Serena and [Jennifer] Capriati with the most wins at Slams [as a teenager]. I saw that and it made me feel -- I don't know, I just feel like I look at the glass half empty, so I'm negative. Then I looked at that stat and I'm like they had great careers. So I'm like I'm in the right direction. I just have to remind myself of the journey and not so much of the moment.
"I am really proud of myself. I did want to win a Slam as a teenager, and I did that. Obviously, today I was hoping to get No. 2 or at least give myself a chance to get No. 2. It didn't happen, but I feel like I'm there. So hopefully I can go only upwards from here."