Gauff on a quest to rebuild aggressive game

Last year's RG finalist says 2023 is a 'crucial' time for her

Coco Gauff, Roland-Garros 2023, practice© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

A trip to Roland-Garros must be a real treat for Coco Gauff.

Paris is the American's favourite city in the world and her affection for the French capital has yielded many special milestones.

Bursting onto the scene, a 14-year-old Gauff clinched the 2018 girls' singles title on Parisian clay.

In 2021, she snagged her first ever Grand Slam quarter-final spot to become the youngest to reach that stage at a major in 15 years.

Roland-Garros 2022 then represented a real major breakthrough as she stormed to the finals in both singles and doubles.

Never short on ambition, Gauff is keen to reignite her game following a few turbulent months.

Just seven weeks ago, coach Diego Moyano cited personal reasons for ending a highly-successful year working with Gauff. Since then the world No.6 has struggled to build momentum. Her lead-up to Paris included a second-round exit in Stuttgart, a 6-3, 6-0 defeat to Paula Badosa in the Madrid third round, and a third-round departure from Rome.

"I'm feeling good. I'm practising a lot better. With the coaching change, it's tough," Gauff told reporters in Rome. "I think I was dealing with making that adjustment. Especially during this part of the season, which is important to me, I felt a little bit of pressure.

"I feel like I'm just ready to build myself back up into what I know I can be."

Coco Gauff, Roland-Garros 2023, practice© Philippe Montigny/FFT

No need to sound the alarm bells though, Gauff is far too experienced and mature (yes, she's only 19-years-old) to derail. The teenager speaks with such clarity, and is able to step away from results and flip the script to forward thinking.

"I feel like when you are coming from a low, you can only go up," says Gauff.

"I think the biggest thing for me is once I go up, to keep going even higher. I don't think you want to put like a ceiling on yourself. This tour week in, week out, you're going to have some stagnation, even down weeks. For the most part I want to make sure I'm continuously moving in an upward pattern." 

In order to recapture her form, Gauff wants to tap back into her aggressive instincts within match play.

"The goal isn't to be top 10 forever. The goal is to be No.1 and win Grand Slams," she explained.

Coco Gauff / Roland-Garros 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

"I do think just going back to committing to the process, I feel like this year we can really change the way I play. It's a crucial year for me. I think I want to relearn and retrain myself to be aggressive."

A part of that process will be recruiting a coach, something she is heavily involved in, conducting interviews with multiple candidates.

In Rome, she practised with Jarmere Jenkins, the former hitting partner of Serena Williams, and she lists her father Corey as her coach on the WTA website.

The Floridian is in no rush though, and is taking her time in trying to find the right fit.

"I know what I'm looking for, I definitely put the personal relationship, over the coaching part," she added.

"My family is pretty involved. Even with Diego, I had a relationship with his family. His daughter is my age. They had a relationship with my family. I really enjoyed that dynamic.

Patrick Mouratoglou, Coco Gauff, Roland-Garros 2023, practice© Julien Crosnier/FFT

"I want to make sure it's someone I get along with, my team gets along with, that can be fun. Some coaches are a brick wall and are worse for some players. I can't have that.

"Obviously the tennis, they have to have a plan. It's something I'm still learning about what I need."

Onsite at Roland-Garros, Gauff has been fine-tuning her game under the watchful eye of French coach Patrick Mouratoglou. During back-to-back practices on Wednesday on Court Simonne-Mathieu, Gauff was crushing returns, stepping in on a vast majority of shots.

Mouratoglou kept his distance, offering a few snippets of advice on serve and was applauding Gauff's lethal one-two combinations. The preparations look intense, but jokes and laughter are essential ingredients too inbetween points.

Paris seems the perfect spot for Gauff to recapture her spark.

Frances Tiafoe, Coco Gauff, Roland-Garros 2023, practice© Julien Crosnier/FFT