Chronicle of Coco Gauff: Winning a Grand Slam in 2023 is my greatest ambition

Chronicle of Coco Gauff: Winning a Grand Slam in 2023 is my greatest ambition

Chronicle of Coco Gauff: Winning a Grand Slam in 2023 is my greatest ambition

Column of Coco Gauff for BBC Sport

Coco Gauff, who shot to fame reaching the last 16 at Wimbledon aged 15 in 2019, is the latest WTA Tour player to write a column on BBC Sport.

In her first article at the Australian Open, the seventh seed from the USA discusses her hopes for 2023.

Starting another season as an established pro seems pretty weird. I’m still only 18 but I don’t feel like the new kid on the block anymore.

I feel like I’m ready to leave behind the label of “teen freak”. Now is the time to be known as a Grand Slam champion.

I feel like all the players still call me a baby, and usually I’m still one of the youngest in the roster, but I’ve been around for a while.

My main ambition for 2023 is to win a Grand Slam title. That’s the biggest goal.

It’s something I’ve been chasing all my life and I came so close last year reaching the French Open final. If winning a major doesn’t happen this year, I will continue to pursue that dream.

Last season was great for me. I placed in the top five of the world rankings in singles and doubles, and I reached the two finals at Roland Garros.

Even though I lost in singles against Iga Swiatek, it gave me a lot of confidence in my game and in myself.

I know I can win a Grand Slam title. Now it’s time to take the last step.

I just need to polish some details and I worked hard in pre-season to achieve that. I really think I probably had one of the best off seasons I’ve had.

It was a lot of hard work, a lot of long days. But I improved my game a lot.

One of my other goals was to win a title on the WTA Tour – I didn’t do that last year – and I already ticked win in Aucklandexternal link Last week.

The signs are good and I hope this success will continue throughout the season.

How I learned to play every major final like it was the last

In the moments following my loss to Iga at Roland Garros, I hid under my towel and cried.

When you’re in a match, you don’t feel it’s over until it’s over. Then all the emotion hits you.

Even though I lost most of the game, I still felt I had a chance until the end. In fact, it was almost a relief when it was over.

There was a lot of pressure and I was the most nervous I’ve ever been for a game in my life.

Everyone says you don’t know how you’re going to feel in a Grand Slam final unless you experience it. All the other players who said that are absolutely right.

No matter how many finals you play in other tournaments, there’s no preparation you can do to feel like you’re in a major final. You cannot reproduce it.

It’s every tennis player’s dream to win a Grand Slam and I guess when you realize how close your dream is, it brings a lot of emotions.

Coco Gauff and Iga Swiatek with their Roland-Garros trophies
Gauff, who was ranked 22nd at the start of last year before reaching a career-high fourth in October, is among the players chasing world number one Iga Swiatek.

One person who knows about this experience is Mary Joe Fernandez. She’s made three Grand Slam finals – including two here in Melbourne – and I’ve spoken to her a lot about how she feels.

She told me that she regretted that everyone told her before the first final ‘oh, you are young and you will still play a lot of finals’.

Instead, she told me to play everyone like it was my last. It was good advice. You have to assume that you won’t get that experience again and that’s the right thing to tell someone.

You don’t know where life will take you.

I don’t know if I will play another Grand Slam final or not. I hope so.

But Mary Joe’s advice changed my perception of the experience and I hope to do another so I can take her words and do something with them.

Bursting onto the Wimbledon stage was like a movie

Many BBC Sport readers will remember how I burst onto the scene at Wimbledon in 2019 – it was a wild, crazy tournament, but I really enjoyed what happened.

I didn’t realize how important it was until maybe a year later because I was just living my life in the moment.

Because I was so young and fresh on the scene, I had no idea what players would have to look like to be on the tour at 15.

Obviously, it is not the norm to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam! It’s usually a slower progression.

When I think back to that time, it was like living in a movie. It happened so quickly. It felt like a dream – a dream in which you can’t tell if it was real or not – and as if it hadn’t happened in real life.

To have that success at such a young age created a lot of pressure – but it was good pressure.

People spoke well of me, they wanted me to do good. Now, I hope I can live up to that by having Grand Slam success in 2023.

Coco Gauff was talking to BBC Sport’s Jonathan Jurejko at Melbourne Park.

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