While Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez have themselves one game away from an unlikely all-teens US Open singles final, an even younger duo are just as close to winning the trophy.
Coco Gauff (17) and Caty McNally (19) defeated Elise Mertens and Hsieh Su-wei in the quarterfinals of the women’s doubles with the best placed doubles 6-3, 7-6 (1) on Wednesday afternoon.
In the interview on Gauff and McNally’s court in front of a merry crowd at Louis Armstrong Stadium, McNally said she took inspiration from her peers’ success in singles.
“It’s really unbelievable,” McNally said. “I walked past Leylah and Emma in the locker rooms and just congratulated and rooted them. I think it’s incredible. Age is just a number; it means nothing. We are showing that we are fierce and that we are ready to compete with anyone here. I just love it.”
At their press conference, Gauff said she believed there was “definitely a shift” to a younger generation.
“For me, I always knew it was coming,” said Gauff. “I’m happy about it. I’m so happy for Leylah and Emma. I’ve known them both for a long time, they’re both super nice girls and I always cheer them on.” Gauff said she left the tournament grounds during Fernandez’s quarter-final victory on Tuesday, but stayed to watch the final. “I had to wait for that third set to finish,” said Gauff. “It took a long time, but it was worth the wait.”
“I support them both,” Gauff added. “I hope we get a teen final. It’s definitely inspiring. It inspires me to do better and work harder.”
Ranked 23rd in singles, Gauff has been a leader for her generation in recent years and has raised expectations of what teens can achieve in this era of professional tennis after reaching the second week of Wimbledon in 2019 when they were just 15. years old. McNally has yet to break the top 100 in singles but said she was encouraged by the successes of Raducanu and Fernandez.
“I think it should inspire everyone to just go out there and say, ‘Why not me?'” McNally said. “That’s what they do, go out every game, play so fearlessly. “Why don’t I go to the semi-finals, quarters or win?” They play very bold, fierce. Obviously we’re not still in singles, but I think we can do the same in doubles.”
Despite their youth, the team called “McCoco” is one of the more established partnerships in women’s tennis. McNally and Gauff first played here three years ago, winning the US Open girls’ doubles title. Since then, they have played together often, winning three WTA titles as of 2019 and reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open twice.
“The main thing that makes us hard to beat is our chemistry with each other,” Gauff said. “When one of us is gone, the other is always there to cover.” (When McNally missed this year’s French Open, Gauff played doubles with a decidedly older partner: then 40-year-old Venus Williams.)
Mertens and Hsieh, whose second serve were both relentlessly attacked by the teens over the net, praised the emerging generation.
“They have nothing to lose: they can play and be free,” said Mertens, a relative veteran at age 25 who is also in the top 20 in singles. “Physically they are very mature, as well as mentally. They already have a lot of power, for 17 and 18 years.”
Hsieh, 35, was excited about the youth infusion in the singles and doubles at this year’s Open.
“It’s always nice to see the young girls coming,” Hsieh said. “They’re beautiful, they have energy and they have different games. It’s an exciting refresh for the tour.”
However, Hsieh said she was happy to watch the youth takeover from a distance for now. “I hope I don’t have to meet them again too soon,” she said. As their court interview drew to a close, Gauff grabbed the microphone to address the “Gen Z” people she saw in attendance.
“Armstrong is always a young crowd – I’ve seen a lot of kids there,” Gauff said at her press conference. “I wanted them to know that it could definitely happen to them. I just think if you dream it, you can do it. All those kids out there reminded me of me when I was here at the US Open watching people play, thinking I could make it. It’s always such a big dream.
“People always say, ‘Yeah, every kid thinks they’re going to be number 1 and stuff,'” Gauff added. “I think every kid should believe that and work for it; don’t let adults tell you you can’t.”