WASHINGTON — The surging American teens in women’s tennis now have a trophy to show for their breakout summer, after two of them, Coco Gauff and Caty McNally, claimed the doubles title at the Citi Open on Saturday.
Gauff, 15, and McNally, 17, dominated the fourth-seeded team of Maria Sanchez and Fanny Stollar, 6-2, 6-2, to claim the first WTA title for each in front of a capacity crowd on the tournament’s second court.
“For me, and I think for both of us, it means a lot,” said Gauff, whose given name is Cori. “Obviously we want to do well in singles, but I think we just love competing in general, so whether it’s singles or doubles, we want to win no matter what. So I think that we really get as nervous as we do in doubles as we do in singles because we just want to make the other one proud.”
McNally had struggled with a hip injury during a loss in her singles semifinal earlier Saturday, but she rallied alongside Gauff, who lost in the first round of singles on Tuesday, to close out their second title together. Their first title came in their lone previous partnership, at last year’s United States Open junior tournament, in which they did not lose a set.
Their win Saturday capped another emphatic run: Not only did Gauff and McNally not lose a set, but they also never lost more than three games in a set in their four victories.
“I don’t think we really looked at the scores, really; I think we just kind of worried about ourselves every single match and our game plan,” McNally said. “I think we just executed it really well, and that’s what the scores show.”
Gauff and McNally plan to put their undefeated record as a team on the line once more at the U.S. Open later this month. Asked if she thought they could go three-for-three as a team in New York, Gauff did not sell their chances short.
“I don’t put any expectations, but I honestly believe that we can,” Gauff said. “We can do whatever we want when we put our minds to it, so I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, let’s just see what happens.’ I think our goal is to win it.”
Gauff’s readiness to succeed echoed the endorsement she had received two days earlier from the former first lady Michelle Obama, who was one of many prominent figures to voice support for Gauff during her run at Wimbledon earlier this summer. After meeting Gauff on Thursday in Washington, Obama called her “a wonderful young woman who’s showing us that we don’t have to wait to see what the next generation can do.”
While McNally received a main draw wild card into the prestigious WTA event near her hometown, Cincinnati, later this month, the 15-year-old Gauff will have three weeks until her next competitive match, which will come at the U.S. Open, as her play is limited by the WTA’s age eligibility rule.
“That will be a big stage,” said Corey Gauff, Coco’s coach and father. “For me, I try to keep it as simple and normal as possible: It’s just a game. You’re going out to play a game, to see how well you can do at that game, to see how far you can go. I’ll never talk her off setting her sights on winning the tournament; just understand that it’s one match, one point at a time. If you can challenge yourself to be composed and compete for all the points, whatever ends up, ends up.”
During the week before the U.S. Open, Gauff will play an exhibition match against the WTA’s No. 1 player, Ashleigh Barty, during the ATP tournament in Winston-Salem, N.C. After her star turn at Wimbledon, where she beat Venus Williams and reached the fourth round, Gauff figures to remain a headliner for the foreseeable future, attracting the kind of large crowds that followed her during her runs at Wimbledon and Washington.
“I don’t know if she’s used to it yet; this is tournament No. 2,” Corey Gauff said. “We’ll see how it is in Winston-Salem when she does the exhibition there, and how the U.S. Open is. But right now a lot of kids are inspired by her performance and seeing her play, so that’s great.”
Gauff said she was taking her duty as a role model seriously.
“I know how much the Williams sisters meant to me when I was younger coming in, and I’m just super grateful and blessed that I’m able to be put in that position and be given this platform,” Gauff said. “I just hope that Caty and I just make the kids proud.”