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For Coco Gauff, Orange is the new Snack

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For Coco Gauff, Orange is the new Snack

 

Yesterday, at 14 years and 7 months young, Coco Gauff was preparing to play the last junior match of her life before transitioning to the pros.

 

The stakes couldn’t have been higher — it was the final of the Orange Bowl, the world's biggest junior tournament after the four Grand Slams.

 

It was pitting the No. 1 seed and reigning Roland-Garros champion, 14-year-old United States’ Coco Gauff, against No. 2 seed and recent Eddie Herr champion, 16-year-old Qinwen Zheng of China, in what was the undisputed dream final.

 

Conscious of the great importance of the moment, Coco's best friend Jamilah Nicole had driven one hour from nearby Delray Beach to come support her.

 

However, the ‘Cori Party' was about to be spoiled.

 

Despite an ideal start after a one-hour rain delay (6-1 in the first), the American lost the second set 6-3 and found herself on the brink of defeat, going down a break in the third.

 

But she wasn’t going to lose that last junior match, whatever it would take.

 

Down 4-2 in the third, Coco showed amazing mental fortitude to hold her serve, break back, then hold again for 5-4 after fending off three break points.

 

The next game would be the last of the match.

 

Down 15-40 on her serve, Zheng found the net after a nine-shot rally.

 

Game, set, match and junior career, Coco Gauff of United States.

 

 

 

 

Over the last 15 months, Coco Gauff had successively become the youngest US Open junior finalist ever; the youngest Roland-Garros junior champion since 1993; and the youngest junior world No. 1 ever.

 

Now she was the youngest Orange Bowl girls’ champion since Nicole Vaidisova in 2003.

 

 

 

 

"At the beginning of the tournament, my dad told me: OK, it’s probably your last junior tournament, so play how you want to be remembered," Coco said. "People mostly know me to always fight, and even when I was down, that’s how I want to be remembered, at least in junior tennis. We’ll see what the next chapter has for me."

 

Currently ranked 870th, Coco declared her goal for next year was "to be top 100 in WTA.”

 

Fittingly, it was as bold of a statement as she looked in the very last match of her junior career.

 

 

 

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