Gauff salutes Federer's words of wisdom

Bill SCOTT
Coco Gauff celebrates victory over Jelena Ostapenko in the Linz final (AFP Photo/BARBARA GINDL)
Coco Gauff celebrates victory over Jelena Ostapenko in the Linz final (AFP Photo/BARBARA GINDL)

Linz (Austria) (AFP) - Coco Gauff hailed Roger Federer for his words of wisdom as the 15-year-old US prodigy on Sunday became the youngest champion on the WTA Tour since 2004.

Gauff defeated 2017 Roland Garros winner Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 in the Linz final for her maiden title.

The teenager is managed by Federer's Team8 and even shares an Italian pasta sponsor with the 20-time major winner.

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On Sunday, she revealed that a pep-talk by the Swiss superstar, after she suffered a heartbreaking defeat in the first round of the 2018 Australian Open junior event, has helped her on a path which this year saw her reach the last 16 at Wimbledon and US Open third round.

"He did give me some advice at the Australian Open in 2018 when I lost in the first round (after being amongst the favourites)," Gauff recalled.

"He told me not to focus too much on the pressure or the outside drama. He gave me some perspective.

"Now, I try to enjoy the tennis and I barely think of that fist-round loss two years later."

Gauff, meanwhile, confirmed she is "100 percent" ready to play at this week's Luxembourg WTA event where she will enjoy a career-high ranking inside the top 70.

She started the week in Linz at 110 in the world and was originally set for an early departure from Austria after losing in the qualifying rounds before grabbing a lifeline as a lucky loser.

"For sure, I'm 100 percent playing in Luxembourg," said Gauff whose rise has been meteoric -- at the end of 2018, she was 686 in the world.

"I'm excited, it will be my last event for the year. I'm playing doubles there also (with regular partner Caty McNally).

"This is the opportunity to see how I perform at back-to-back tournaments."

Gauff's career timetable has suddenly shifted into overdrive, with her breakthrough WTA trophy coming much more quickly than might have been expected.

"My goal was the top 100 and to get into the main draw of at least one Grand Slam," said the player, who has now earned a main draw spot for January's Australian Open.

"I've accomplished all of those goals this year, now I need to work on improving my game.

"I've gone through what was supposed to be my timeline for the next two years. It's been crazy."

"I didn't expect to be on the Tour in general right now," the 2018 French Open junior champion said.

Gauff, coached by her father, said she expects to start gaining confidence as she gets more accustomed to the WTA circuit.

"I'm new to the Tour and I've not faced a lot of the players. I'm sure the more matches I play the more confident I'll get, along with the more experience I'll have."

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