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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday September 8, 2023

During a conversation between Coco Gauff, Chris Evert and other pundits at the ESPN desk on Thursday night at the US Open, the topic of Serena Williams was broached.

Fitting that in the first year that Serena has not graced the US Open with her presence, a product of her legacy has shot to the foreground and captivated the tennis world with her tennis and personality.

Tennis Express

19-year-old Gauff is thrilled to be inspiring legions of tennis fans in New York and around the world, but she’s quick to admit that she’s no Serena – and never will be.

“Serena’s Serena – she's the GOAT,” she said. “I will hope to do half of what she [has done], but I'm not going to compare myself to her. She's someone I looked up to, but to be in the same stat line as her (as the youngest American to reach the final at the US Open since Williams herself in 1999) means a lot to me. She's my idol.”

Gauff, who faced legend Venus Williams in her first major tournament, at Wimbledon in 2019, still regrets that she never got to face Queen Serena in a WTA match.

“I think the only regret that I will have for the rest of my life is not being able to play her,” she said.

Gauff says she’s just proud to be moving the needle forward for American tennis, and even though she’s the only American vying for a title this weekend, she feels she’s just a part of a bigger movement.

“I'm still happy to just be a product of her legacy and be out here," Gauff said, adding: "I guess for this tournament I'm doing well for American tennis, but we also have a big gun tomorrow in Ben Shelton playing, he's my friend (referring to Shelton’s semifinal with Novak Djokovic (Djokovic won in straights).

“I think that we have exciting tennis for this country coming out with me, Jessica Pegula, Tommy Paul, Frances – so many of us are doing what I think it pushes us to be better.

Learning from her first major final: “I don’t think I believed in myself then.”

Gauff looks forward to taking her shot at becoming the tenth woman to win the US Open title as a teenager, and she says she is carrying way more self-belief than she had last year, when she lost to Iga Swiatek in the Roland-Garros final.

“I learned a lot from the past,” she said. “In my final at the French Open I think I put too much on the moment and on Saturday I'm gonna go out there and just play like it’s another tennis match. I approached the match today. I told myself, I'm just gonna go out there have fun and play the tennis I know how to play.

“That's how you have to approach it sometimes. I think I play good tennis when I'm the most relaxed, and when I played the French Open final I think I was focused too much on the expectations. That I had to win, that I need to do this, and now it’s more that I'm here because I want to and I believe in myself – I don't think I believed in myself then.”