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Coco Gauff’s Grand Slam win at U.S. Open highlights the rising tide of Black tennis stars

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Coco Gauff’s Grand Slam win at U.S. Open highlights the rising tide of Black tennis stars

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As Serena and Venus Williams’s tennis careers are heading toward the exit door, U.S. Open Women’s Champion Coco Grauf is blazing a new path for the next generation of Black stars in the sport. 

Although Gauff received most of the attention in winning her first tennis grand slam, a loss by veteran Black tennis player Madison Keys in the semifinals to world No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka kept two Black women out of the first all-Black grand slam final since the 2017 Australian Open. Of course, the first allBlack women’s finalists were Serena and Venus Williams, who also met in nine other grand slam finals over their careers. 

Besides winning a record $3 million championship prize, the 19-year Gauff also became the first teenager to win the U.S. Open since, of course, who else but Serena. After the win, Gauff became the sixth Black woman to win the U.S. Open, joining the Williams sisters, Japanese American star Naomi Osaka, Sloane Williams, and all-time great Althea Gibson.

 After winning, Gauff paid homage to her one-name idols, Serena and Venus, and how they impacted her dream of being a tennis champion one day.

 “They’re the reason why I have this trophy today, to be honest. They have allowed me to believe in this dream growing up. There weren’t too many Black tennis players dominating the sport. It was just them that I can remember. Obviously, more came because of their legacy, so it made the dream more believable. But all the things that they had to go through, they made it easier for someone like me to do this,” said Gauff. 

Besides Gauff and Keys, Black women tennis players Taylor Townsend, Sachia Vickery, Robin Montgomery, Clervie Ngounoue, Asia Muhammad, and Alycia Parks also participated in this year’s U.S. Open, along with more than a dozen rising junior stars under 18 years old. Notably, Robinson and Ngounoue made it together to the U.S. Women’s doubles championship semifinals. 

Montgomery, 19, won the U.S. Open girls’ single title in 2021 and is ranked 144th globally. Ngounoue, just 17, won this year’s Wimbledon junior title. She climbed to the top of the International Tennis Federation’s Junior Circuit world rankings in June and is the U.S. Tennis Association’s No. 1 junior tennis player. 

But the impact of Black players on the tennis world was also felt in the men’s draw, where Brian Shelton and French star Frances Tiafoe were the first Black men to meet in a U.S. Open quarterfinal. Shelton won that historic match but lost in the semifinals to eventual U.S. Open Champion and World No. 2 Novak Djokovic. 

Although he lost to Djokovic, the all-time winner of the most grand slams, Shelton is considered one of the world’s rising stars with the fastest serve in tennis at 149 mph. Shelton, whose father Bryan coaches and is also a groundbreaking Black American tennis professional, is now 19th in the ATP world ranking. That puts two Black men’s tennis stars in the top 20 for the first time, with Tia foe at 11th.

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