Coco Gauff has been enjoying the best summer of her career, winning two titles and reaching the semi-final of the US Open, where she is still in contention for the trophy. The 19-year-old hired new coach Brad Gilbert after Wimbledon and has so far lost just one match since they linked up. The 62-year-old has now opened up on the changes he made to Gauff’s game to bring success. And he revealed that the world No 6 thought he was an “old dude”.
The North American hard-court swing has largely been dominated by one player – Coco Gauff. Before August, she had three career titles all at WTA 250 level. But she won the 500-point event in Washington and her first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati, with her only defeat coming to Jessica Pegula in Canada.
She is now through to her first semi-final at the US Open where she takes on Karolina Muchova, and the timing of her recent uptick has coincided with the addition of Gilbert in her corner. A tennis analyst for ESPN, Gilbert has now explained the secret weapons he added to Gauff’s game since joining her coaching team.
“I’ll tell you Coco’s two best qualities, she’s incredibly humble and hard-working. She wants to get better,” the American told Sky Sports. “I think I’ve helped her a lot with simple strategy and in-match, understanding her opponents’ strengths and weaknesses. And when you start with somebody on the fly, that’s what you can do most.”
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Gauff’s forehand had often been a talking point as her weak side but Gilbert wasn’t interested in changing it up at this stage in their partnership. He continued: “It’s not about if you’re trying to change somebody’s forehand or backhand. And you cannot believe how many texts I got saying ‘fix this forehand’. Like, really? Last I checked, she does a lot of things really well. So you work with the things you have and you just try to get better.”
As well as giving new insight into Gauff’s strategies against each opponent, Gilbert also made some technical adjustments. “First of all, [I was impressed by] her movement on court. And I felt like she played a little too aggressively and points were a little too short,” he explained.
“So I felt like her best asset is being able to use more of the court, extending the points longer. And I maybe moved her back six, eight, nine feet on the return. Because so many girls are up close so I’m just giving her more opportunity to use the things she does well.”
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But Gilbert refused to take the credit for Gauff’s success, adding: “And then you know what? Ultimately, she’s the one that executes the game plan and wins and loses the matches.” Another reason for the instant results in their partnership is the bond the pair have already formed off the court.
The world No 6 has been sharing her “favourite Brad stories” – including his love for Jolly Ranchers and odd numbers. And Gilbert also opened up on their relationship, admitting that the 19-year-old thought he was old. “Well, she doesn’t listen to the things I send her,” he said, referencing his music taste.
“I send her a little bit of Petty, I send her the Eagles. She’s never heard of Grateful Dead. She’s never heard of Springsteen. Metallica, I went to the show in Montreal, I sent her pictures of it. But I keep sending it. I’m trying to get her.”
But the coach and commentator already had experience with his own daughters which was helping him with Gauff. “She thinks I’m an old dude which is fine,” he laughed. “I’ve got two girls, they were 19 once before, they’re a little older. Girls are tougher. Trying to outsmart my two young daughters, it’s difficult.
“But I think literally, they prepared me for this one. My youngest is here with me, she gives me a little bit of sage advice about some of the things that Coco says. They say I’m a little blase with Twitter and I don’t do TikTok, that I need to improve my game.”
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