Coco Gauff fell on her back, cried overwhelmedly and formed a heart with her hands towards the frenetically cheering fans. After a strong comeback, the American crowd favorite celebrated his first triumph at the US Open with great emotions. The 19-year-old defeated Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka 2:6, 6:3, 6:2 after 2:06 hours on Saturday and prevented the Australian Open winner from winning her second Grand Slam title.

“I’m a little shocked,” said Gauff in her speech at Arthur Ashe Stadium and thanked her parents, among others. “Today I saw my father cry for the first time.” She remembered watching her idols Venus and Serena Williams play in the stands of the world’s largest tennis stadium as a child. “That’s why it’s incredible to be on this stage.”

After a dominant first set from Sabalenka, Gauff fought back with her intensive game, unnerved her opponent and also benefited from many of the Belarusian’s mistakes. The 25-year-old will take over the top position in the world rankings for the first time after the final defeat on Monday. “I hope we play many more finals against each other,” congratulated Sabalenka and said with a smile: “Then hopefully with a different result.”

Celebrities in the audience

Celebrity fans such as actresses Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Diane Keaton as well as basketball star Kevin Durant enthusiastically cheered the young US star. Former US President Barack Obama congratulated via

Gauff is the first American teenager since Serena Williams in 1999 to win the US Open. Last year she clearly lost the final at the French Open against Iga Swiatek. This defeat broke her heart, Gauff recalled in her speech and addressed her critics. “Thank you to everyone who didn’t believe in me,” she said. “Those who thought they were pouring water on my fire, they just added gasoline and now I’m burning so bright.”

Gauff had already given up the first set against Laura Siegemund in the first round and also against the Belgian Elise Mertens during the tournament – and came back in each case. After winning the title at the dress rehearsal in Cincinnati, she confirmed her top form and will climb to third place in the world rankings thanks to the greatest success of her career. Sabalenka would have been the first player since Angelique Kerber in 2016 to win the Australian Open and US Open in the same year.

Everything was prepared for a great American evening: Jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant sang “America the Beautiful” and a huge US flag was stretched across the square by more than 40 people. Tennis icon Billie Jean King stood at the net during the coin toss in the year of the 50th anniversary of equal prize money for women and men at the US Open.

Opponent started powerfully

But Sabalenka wanted to prevent the big home party. The powerful Belarusian started powerfully from the first point and dictated the game. Gauff dived from left to right, defended as well as possible, but her shots often became shorter and shorter in longer rallies. With two direct winning strokes, Sabalenka got the first break in the first game. A murmur went through the audience in view of the clear distribution of roles.

Freed, Gauff’s fans celebrated the Americans’ first win of the game, 1-2. And Sabalenka showed signs of nervousness, allowing herself three early double faults. However, after the 2:2 she pulled away again and dominated the game with her power tennis despite great resistance from Gauff. Despite making 14 unforced errors, Sabalenka took the first set after 40 minutes.

Gauff turns the match around

Gauff got off to a good start in the second set, gained confidence and was able to put more pressure on her opponent. Sabalenka also applauded a successful ball pass and the audience rose to its feet for the US star, who made the break to make it 3-1 a short time later. With high balls to the forehand, Gauff threw her opponent off her game and now set the rhythm. A forehand from Sabalenka sailed out to lose the second set, and Gauff jogged into the dressing room.

Sabalenka was completely frustrated and received the next break in the first game. At a loss, she went to her appendix and got a new bat. But this didn’t bring any improvement either. Gauff moved ahead to 4-0. When the score was 1:4, Sabalenka put a white towel over her head and had herself treated. After the brief rebellion, however, Gauff had the upper hand again – and was able to celebrate a little later.