Doubters were fuel to my fire says triumphant Gauff

USA's Coco Gauff celebrates her US Open title on Saturday (TIMOTHY A. CLARY)
USA's Coco Gauff celebrates her US Open title on Saturday (TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

Coco Gauff said critics who doubted her ability to win a major title fuelled her breakthrough Grand Slam victory at the US Open on Saturday.

The 19-year-old American captured the first major championship of her career with a battling 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 defeat of incoming world number one Aryna Sabalenka in front of a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.

Gauff, who climbed into the stands to embrace her family after the win, afterwards gave a cheeky 'thank you' to those who wondered whether she was capable of landing major titles.

"Honestly, thank you to the people who didn't believe in me...two weeks ago, I won a 1000 title (in Cincinnati) and people were saying that was the biggest it was going to get," she said. "Three weeks later, I'm here with this trophy right now.

"Honestly, those who thought they were putting water on my fire, you were really adding gas to it, and now I'm really burning so bright right now."

Gauff had been beaten in her first Grand Slam final appearance at the French Open last year, a defeat she told ESPN on Saturday left her feeling like "my life was going to end."

"That French Open loss (last year) was a heartbreak for me. That makes this moment even sweeter than I could imagine," Gauff said.

"I'm so grateful for this moment. I don't have any words for it to be honest."

Gauff meanwhile paid tribute to her father, who took her to the US Open when she was growing up to watch her tennis idols Serena and Venus Williams.

"Today was the first time I've ever seen my dad cry," Gauff continues. "He doesn't want me to tell you about that.

"I've been coming to this tournament (for so long). My dad took me to this tournament sitting right there watching Venus and Serena compete, so it's really incredible to be on this stage."