Gauff Reveals Goals as Sabalenka Holds Firm at Italian Open

Photo of Coco Gauff while reveals her goals.

Recall the 2023 US Open? It was a significant moment for both Coco Gauff and Aryna Sabalenka. One secured the championship trophy, while the other rose to claim the coveted World No.1 ranking. Sabalenka, now seated at the summit, reflected on the shift in mindset from chasing to being chased. Meanwhile, Gauff’s primary focus was on clinching the title, a goal she accomplished, and her priorities have remained unchanged even eight months later.

For the past 111 weeks, the top spot in the WTA rankings has mostly been shared between Iga Swiatek (for 103 weeks) and Aryna Sabalenka (for 8 weeks), with Coco Gauff consistently trailing closely behind. Sabalenka acknowledged the pressure of being targets, a position Gauff aimed to exceed. However, Gauff’s ambitions have never solely revolved around reaching the No.2 or No.1 spot, as she emphasized during an interview at the Rome Masters with Prakash Amritraj.

Despite her reputation as a clay court specialist, Gauff’s performance in 2024 had been lackluster until the Italian Open. However, she showcased resilience and determination, particularly evident in her Round of 16 match against Paula Badosa, a close friend of Sabalenka, despite facing setbacks, including being bagelled.

Following her victory over the Spaniard in a three-set match with scores of 5-7, 6-4, 6-1, Gauff emphasized in an interview with Tennis Channel how crucial that win was for her. Despite being just 20 years old, her opportunity to achieve a career-high ranking of No.2 in Madrid slipped away, prompting Prakash Amritraj to inquire whether reaching No.2 is her aim at the Italian Open. “You have the chance to edge closer to the No.1 ranking. You could attain No.2 this week. Does that drive you?” he asked. However, Gauff’s response was straightforward: “No, not really.”

She went on to explain, emphasizing, “Honestly, I’ve never fixated on rankings. While reaching No.2 would be a prestigious accomplishment, my primary focus is on winning tournaments. Ultimately, my goal is to amass as many trophies as possible, and rankings will naturally follow.”

This sentiment aligns with her earlier statements at the beginning of the clay-court season. While she contemplates the prospect of winning the French Open and seeking redemption for her loss to Iga Swiatek in the 2022 Final, Gauff’s immediate objective is more straightforward.

“I’m not currently preoccupied with the French Open. Right now, I simply aim to secure a clay title. Any of the upcoming tournaments in the next few weeks would suffice,” she noted before Stuttgart. Although her aspirations were not realized before arriving in Rome, it appears she is making progress toward clinching a Masters title this year. Gauff’s most recent victory on clay was at the 2021 Emilia-Romagna Open, also held on Italian soil.

Given her main objective of securing trophies, the American conveyed to Amritraj, “My focus isn’t really on achieving No.2.” Nonetheless, she did recognize the significance of reaching the World No.1 position, remarking, “I think attaining No.1 would be truly remarkable.

However, honestly, the difference between No.2 and No.3 is somewhat insignificant to me.” Surpassing Swiatek, who holds a substantial lead of over 3,000 points ahead of Sabalenka, may currently be out of Gauff’s reach. Yet, amidst a fierce competition for the No.2 ranking—despite her limited attention on it—Gauff could potentially leave Rome with a new career-high placement.

At present, Sabalenka maintains a slim lead of less than 200 points over Gauff—specifically 185 points. It’s a chase of 7,313 points versus 7,498. Entering the Italian Open, Gauff only needed to reach the semifinals to close the gap on Sabalenka. However, for her to surpass the Belarusian, Sabalenka would have needed to exit the tournament prior to the quarterfinals. Nonetheless, this scenario hasn’t unfolded.


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