Coco Gauff won more than her first Grand Slam at the 2023 U.S. Open.
Beating Aryna Sabalenka in three sets to become the first American teenager to win the major tournament since Serena Williams in 1999, clips of the 19-year-old from Delray Beach in action flooded social media apps like Tik Tok and X, formerly known as Twitter.
Yet, a video of Gauff at age 8, dancing in the stands of Arthur Ashe Stadium to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” at the U.S. Open in 2012, was more telling of why her $3 million in winnings also included hearts around the globe.
Gauff, who moved up to No. 3 (from No. 6) in the singles rankings by the Women’s Tennis Association, has become one of the scene’s most notable risers since going pro in 2018.
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Still, for lack of a better word, there was a major difference from her 2019 performance at the U.S. Open, when a tearful 15 year-old Gauff reached the third round to fall in straight sets to Naomi Osaka, only doing a joint, post-match interview at the two-time title winner’s insistence.
From rookie watchers and celebrity spectators, to the most avid of tennis fans, Gauff’s newfound confidence and infectious laughter on and off the court brought a new vibrance to the sport, while her jokes and “relatable” demeanor garnered a deal of praise from the public.
Take a look at eight of Gauff’s most quotable moments from this year’s U.S. Open.
Getting the U.S. Open prize of $3 million
“Thank you, Billie, for fighting for this.”
Upon being handed the envelope with the tournament’s prize of $3 million on Saturday, Gauff took a moment to thank tennis legend Billie Jean King. A notable advocate for gender equality, one of King’s first milestones promoting women’s advancement in the sport came in 1972 when she won the U.S. Open, just a year after becoming the first female athlete to earn $100,000 in prize money in a season of competition.
King, then age 28, took home just $10,000 while men’s champion Ilie Nastase won $25,000, and went on to announce that she wouldn’t compete in the tournament the following season if the prize money was not equal. In 1973, the U.S. Open became the first major to pay men and women equally.
Gauff gave another iconic quote on the topic during an Instagram livestream, in which a viewer told her she should use the money to pay off debt. Gauff quickly quipped back, “I’m 19. I don’t have any debt.”
“I live with my parents still… I didn’t go to college… I’m not in debt. I’m too young,” Gauff laughed.
When her dad got ‘caught in 4K’
“Today was the first time I’ve ever seen my dad cry. He doesn’t want me to tell y’all that, but he got caught in 4K.”
Gauff’s light-hearted youth shined through even in the most tender moments of her U.S. Open win, mostly thanks to her use of popular “Tik Tok” phrases, like “caught in 4K.” Members of Gen-Z coined the saying to describe when one is caught red-handed or seen so clearly it could be likened to high-definition 4K resolution, which refers to a horizontal display resolution of approximately 4,000 pixels.
In Gauff’s case, she spotted an uncharacteristically tear-stained face on her father, Corey, after her monumental win on Saturday. Fittingly, the camera immediately panned over to the elder Gauff, overcome with emotion, motioning for the operator to stop rolling as he listened to his daughter’s first post-major victory speech.
“He thinks he’s so hard …” Gauff said.
Her message to the haters
“Thank you to the people who didn’t believe in me.”
The summer started a little differently for Gauff, now only the third American teenager to win the U.S. Open. She picked up a share of naysayers after taking a shocking first-round fall to unranked American Sofia Kenin at Wimbledon, marking her green career’s earliest exit from a Grand Slam tournament.
In the months to come, Gauff got payback with titles at the opens in Washington, D.C., a WTA 500 championship, and Cincinnatti, a WTA 1000 championship. Of her last 14 matches, she’s won 13.
“Like a month ago, I won a 500 title and people said I would stop at that. Two weeks ago, I won a 1000 title and people were saying that was the biggest I was going to get. So three weeks later, I’m here with this trophy right now. I tried my best to carry this with grace and I’ve been doing my best,” Gauff said. “So honestly, to those who thought they were putting water on my fire, you were really adding gas to it, and I’m really burning so bright right now.”
On her plans after her first major win
“So honestly, I just want to eat a burger and like go to sleep and talk to my boyfriend.”
Burger. Bed. Boyfriend. The three Bs in Gauff’s post-win plans were simple.
Conversations about phone calls with her “boyfriend” popped up in a handful of Gauff’s interviews during and after the U.S. Open. Rather than letting pre-final jitters rumble in her mind, Gauff said she “just called” the mystery man (who social media tennis connoisseurs are rooting to be another Florida-based singles star Ben Shelton, age 20) and “told him let’s talk until it’s time to go to sleep so we spoke until 1 a.m. and then I went to sleep.”
Although Gauff’s relationship status is known, the most important question surrounding whether the post-match burger happened remains unanswered.
When she was an announcer
“I’ll take the mic for this one.”
On Friday, Gauff excitedly received the handoff of the microphone from Pam Shriver following a post-match interview to try out a new role: “Okay, coming up next is the No. 1 player in the world after the end of this tournament − 23 slams, I believe − Novak Djokovic. Woo!”
Djokovic, who Gauff said inspires her own movement on the court, went on to win the third-round match and, ultimately, his 24th slam at age 36 on Sunday.
When she was her own referee
“I don’t care what she’s doing on her serve, but on my serve she has to be ready.”
Even commentators for the tournament couldn’t help but commend the teenager’s poise during a now-viral row with chair umpire Marijana Veljovic. In the first round of singles, 35 year-old qualifier Laura Siegemund’s use of delay tactics to slow down Gauff’s swift style wasn’t going to fly. At least not if it was up to Gauff.
“She’s never ready when I’m serving. She went over the clock like four times. You gave her a time violation once. How is this fair?” Gauff asked, noting Veljovic was calling scores “six seconds” after the point was over.
“You’re very quick. She’s very slow,” Veljovic responded.
Earning roars of applause for the duration of the 71-second interaction, Gauff was steadfast in her protest: “I’m going a normal speed. Ask any ref here. I go a medium-paced speed.”
Recapping her first-round singles win against Laura Siegemund
On Aug. 29, Gauff rallied from a set down to win the tense singles matchup, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. During her on-court interview that Monday night, Gauff called it how it was when asked about playing opposite Siegemund.
The intense side-eye and mischievous grin to follow her one-word recap served as icing on the cake.
When she celebrated too early with doubles partner Jessica Pegula
“I hit, like, a great return and went for a hug and Jess was going away from me and I was like, ‘Damn, what did I do?’ and then I realized the match wasn’t over.”
The 2023 U.S. Open marks the first time Gauff’s name will be engraved on the event’s Tiffany & Co. trophy, but she walked away from Flushing Meadows, N.Y., with a repeat of another remarkable feat. After earning the No.1 doubles position in August 2022, Gauff topped the WTA world doubles rankings again on Sept. 11, this time with partner Jessica Pegula, to become the first all-USA team since 2012 to take the top spot. Pegula spends part of the year in Boca Raton.
Of course, Gauff couldn’t hit more milestones without getting a giggle from the crowds.
On Aug. 31, after advancing to the third round of singles play with a straight-set win over Mirra Andreeva, she returned to kick off 2023 doubles play. Seeded third, Gauff and Pegula were sitting pretty with a comfortable advantage on American wild cards Quinn Gleason and Elizabeth Mandlik, up 6-2, 4-1 with a break point. Firing off what she believed to be a match-point return, Gauff erupted into celebration only to have a locked-in Pegula break the news that the score was 5-1.
“I really forgot the score and thought it was over,” Gauff tweeted after the match.
Gauff and Pegula went on to win 6-2, 6-1, before being eliminated by Su-Wei Hsieh and Xinyu Wang in the quarterfinals on Sept. 6.
Emilee Smarr is the high school sports reporter for the Palm Beach Post. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Grand slam champion Coco Gauff’s 8 most quotable moments from 2023 U.S. Open