In the early stages of the year, Andreescu and 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova blossomed, but the most electric WTA thrill was yet to come. It was delivered at Wimbledon by Gauff, who was just 14 and ranked No. 684 at the time of the year’s first major.
A wild card in the Wimbledon qualifying event, Gauff won six matches and made the fourth round in the main draw before she was stopped by the eventual champion Simona Halep. The well-rounded, exuberantly athletic game of the 15-year-old was astonishing, but it was Gauff’s sincerity and open, expressive nature that put her over the top with the public. “Coco-mania” was born in a few short days at Wimbledon.
The adulation and attention, officially in the media and organically among fans, trailed her everywhere. By the time she arrived at the US Open, Gauff was a full-blown phenomenon. Legions pleaded aloud for her attention, long lines of fans waited just to get a glimpse of her on a practice court or in a doubles match with partner Caty McNally.
Gauff came crashing back down to earth at the US Open, where she was soundly thrashed by Osaka in a third-round 6-3, 6-0 blowout that left the youngster in tears — and Osaka consoling her on the sideline.
“I definitely was wanting to leave the court because I’m not the type of person who wants to cry in front of everyone,” Gauff said. “I didn’t want to take that moment away from her, as well.”
It was an unscripted, mature reaction. The tears Gauff cries on court in the future will almost certainly be those of joy.