Sept. 9 (UPI) -- Coco Gauff was overpowered early, but used her unmatched speed and relentless defense to rally past Aryna Sabalenka in the 2023 U.S. Open women's singles final, winning her first Grand Slam on Saturday in Flushing, NY.
"I knew if I didn't give it my all, I had no shot at winning," Gauff said on the ESPN broadcast. "It means so much to me. I feel like I'm a little bit in shock in this moment."
The 19-year-old from Delray Beach, Fla., is the youngest American to win the U.S. Open since 1999, when Serena Williams won at 17.
"Thank you to the people who didn't believe in me," said Gauff, who won a $3 million prize.
"A month ago, I won a WTA 500 [level] title and people said I would stop at that. Two weeks ago, I won a 1000 [level] title and people said that was as big as it was going to get. Three weeks later, I'm standing with this trophy.
"Those of you who thought you were putting water on my fire, you were really adding gas to it. I'm burning so bright right now."
Gauff broke Sabalenka's serve five times, including three times in the final set of the 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory at Arthur Ashe Stadium. She totaled just 19 unforced errors, compared to Sabalenka's 46.
"Congrats, Coco," Sabalenka said. "You played unbelievable. You guys deserve this title. There are many more to come, I'm pretty sure. I hope we are going to play more finals."
Sabalenka used her strong serves and returns to keep Gauff off-balance in the first set. She broke Gauff's first serve and earned a total of three break points in the set.
Gauff held her first two serves in the second set. She then broke Sabalenka for the first time in the fourth game and held in the fifth for a 4-1 lead. Gauff and Sabalenka each held their serves for the remainder of the set.
Gauff broke Sabalenka twice to open the third set, racing out to a 4-0 lead. Sabalenka then ended Gauff's run of five-consecutive game victories by holding serve.
Gauff then broke Sabalenka for the third time in the set, giving her a service game opportunity for championship point.
Gauff lobbed two backhand returns to the right to start the final sequence. She followed with two forehand strikes to the same area.
Sabalenka answered with a backhand, forcing Gauff to her left. Gauff raced into the area, whipping her final backhand winner by the Belarusian before she could reach the baseline.
Gauff then collapsed to the ground in celebration of the most-significant victory of her young career.
Gauff, who is 18-1 since losing in the first round of Wimbledon 2023, will move from No. 6 to No. 3 in the WTA singles rankings, when they are released Monday. Sabalenka will become the No. 1 player in the world. Former No. 1 Iga Swiatek will drop to No. 3.