WATCH: Coco Gauff dropped just five games against Maria Sakkari to win her fourth career WTA singles title in Washington, D.C.

On July 3, Coco Gauff hit what may have been the low point of her four-year career when she lost to Sofia Kenin in the first round at Wimbledon.

This Sunday, Aug. 6, a little over a month later, Gauff reached one of the peaks of her time on tour with her 6-2, 6-3 win over Maria Sakkari in the final of the Mubadala Citi DC Open. It was her first title since January, her first ever in the United States, and her first at a 500-level tournament.

How did she go from the basement to the penthouse so quickly?

“A lot of prayer,” Gauff said with a laugh after her win over Sakkari. Before she thanked her coaching team or her parents, the 19-year-old thanked her “church family” back home for helping her put that defeat behind her.

Of course, it didn’t take long for her to give a shout out to her coaches, “BG”—Brad Gilbert—and Pere Riba. This was their first tournament together, and obviously something—everything, really—went right. Gauff won her most significant title, and beat three Top 20 opponents—Sakkari, Belinda Bencic, and Liudmila Samsonova—along the way. Before today, she was 1-4 against Sakkari.

The key, as it so often is in tennis, was increased aggression.


That started with Gauff’s demeanor. She was more fiery this week, and more willing to try to rile up the crowd than she has been in the past. But it’s still a work in progress. After one winning point, she raised her arms to the crowd, and then began to swing them as if she were marching into battle. Halfway to the baseline, though, she stopped and smiled instead.

The Djokovician fist-pump and roar may never be Gauff's style. And that’s OK.

More importantly, Gauff upped her aggression level during points. She hit her backhand harder and flatter, and fired it into the corners rather than setting for rally balls. She rolled her forehand with heavier topspin, and went for inside-out winners whenever she had the chance. Gauff hit her first serve with more confidence, and came up with aces when she needed them. She wasn’t perfect in the final, despite the one-sided scores, but she never let one bad game turn into two, and she prevailed in most of the long ones. Gauff has given up leads over the years, but serving for the match today, she hit a forehand winner to set up championship point, and a backhand winner to clinch it.

“This is the tennis that I’ve been trying to play,” Gauff said after her quarterfinal win over Bencic. “From the first point in the match, I told myself that I’m going to be aggressive in the moments that I need to.”

Before this week, Gauff said she felt like she was relying on her serve, her athleticism, and her “good mentality” to get her through, but she doesn’t think “that’s enough to win a Slam.”


“I wanted to win in a particular type of way,” she said. “I need to play the first-strike tennis, and I need to find a way to blend all those things and make it one.”

Gilbert and Riba's job is not unlike the one Ivan Lendl had when he first started coaching Andy Murray in 2012. What do you do with someone who has the ability to play offensive tennis, but whose instincts are to rally and defend? Lendl helped Murray flatten out and crack his forehand more aggressively. He also helped put him into a more proactive, rather than reactive, mindset. It was a step-by-step process, and Gauff knows it will probably be the same for her.

“I’m not expecting to win everything right off the bat of a coaching change,” she said. “If you’re a player and you’re expecting to just switch the coach and that’s going to change your life, I think you’re wrong.”

“A lot of it is you. I just needed direction, and I think they provided me that direction.”

Gauff’s game wasn’t all that was new in D.C.; so was her hairstyle. For the moment, the braids are gone. She was asked if it was a “new era” for her overall, and she said yes. Except for one thing.

“I know a lot of people think I need to cut my nails to help me [hit] a forehand better,” Gauff laughed. “I’m like, ‘I did try the short nails, and it did not make my forehand better.’

“These are here to stay.”


Gauff credited her new coaching team of Pere Riba and Brad Gilbert with some of the tennis she played this week.

Gauff credited her new coaching team of Pere Riba and Brad Gilbert with some of the tennis she played this week.

This weekend I was surprised to learn that Gauff had never made a final in her home country. But I was doubly surprised to find out that Stefanos Tsitsipas had never won a title on outdoor hard courts before his 6-3, 6-4 win over Alex de Minaur in Los Cabos on Saturday. How could this be true of someone who was this year’s Australian Open runner-up, and who has been in the Top 10 since 2019?

Tournaments, rather than titles, are Tsitsipas’ specialty. He plays a lot of them, and he does reasonably well at many of them, especially on clay. But this was just the 10th time he had gone all the way, and the first time in 2023. For a guy who won the year-end ATP Finals on an indoor hard court in London as a 21-year-old in 2019, he hasn’t made a lot of progress on faster surfaces.

So Tsitsipas’s win in Los Cabos was a welcome one. He survived a struggle with Nicolas Jarry in the quarterfinals, avenging a loss from earlier this season. He recorded his third straight win this year over a former nemesis, Borna Coric. And he played a pressing, suffocating brand of tennis—the kind that once seemed destined to bring him titles much bigger than this one—against de Minaur. Speaking of shocking statistics, Tsitsipas is now 10-0 against the Aussie.


“I’ll take the positives out of this week,” Tsitsipas said. “I had a few good matches here, and I think it’s a good start to the [hard-court] swing.”

Tsitsipas, like Gauff, will head for the Masters 1000 event in Canada, which starts Monday. Now that these two highly touted young players are back on a title-winning path, could be there bigger ones ahead?