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Aryna Sabalenka’s Crown Fails to Move Coco Gauff as She Comes Clean on Her Long Term Goals

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For the last 111 weeks, the World No.1 spot on the WTA Tour has been shared by Iga Swiatek (103) and Aryna Sabalenka (8). And almost all this time, they’ve had Coco Gauff right behind them. As Sabalenka said, both of them must’ve felt like they had a target on their back, one that Gauff would’ve been striving to reach. While that may have been something the American would’ve thought about, becoming World No.2 – or even No.1 – has never been what she’s focused on. At least, that’s what she told Prakash Amritraj during the Rome Masters.

There’s no denying that Coco Gauff has an all-court game. But clay is a surface that she usually shines on. However, despite being the clay court specialist she is, her 2024 campaign hasn’t been too great. Coming into the Italian Open, she had just one win in Stuttgart and two in Madrid. But she’s finally found her rhythm on the Roman clay. Despite being bagelled once already, she’s taken control of her game, as was evident in her Round of 16 match against Sabalenka’s best friend, Paula Badosa.

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Overcoming the Spaniard in three sets, 5-7, 6-4, 6-1, Gauff said she “needed that win” in an interview with Tennis Channel. Because the 20-year-old had the chance to attain a new career-high ranking of No.2 in Madrid but couldn’t, Prakash Amritraj couldn’t help but ask if that’s her goal at the Italian Open. “You have an opportunity to continue moving towards the No.1 ranking. You can hit No.2 this week. Has that motivated you?” he asked. Gauff’s answer, though, was a plain and simple, “No, not really.”

Do you think Gauff will become World No.2 before Roland Garros?

She continued, “To be honest, I’ve never been like a ranking-based person. Being No.2 would be really cool and an honor, but I focus more on tournament wins. At the end of the day, I want to get as many trophies in my cabinet, and then the ranking will come with that.” This statement resonated with what she said even coming into the clay-court season. While winning the French Open and getting redemption for that 2022 Final loss against Iga Swiatek would be on her mind, she first has a more basic ask from herself.

“I’m not looking at the French Open right now. I just want to get a recent clay title under my belt. So many of the ones along the next couple weeks would be nice,” she said before Stuttgart. Although it didn’t work out for her before coming to Rome, it looks like she’s on the right path to adding a Masters title to her name this year. The last time Coco Gauff won a tournament on clay was at the 2021 Emilia-Romagna Open, which was on Italian soil, too.

Considering winning trophies is her main goal, the American told Amritraj, “I’m not really focused on the No.2.” However, she did acknowledge the pride of becoming the World No.1: “ think No.1 would be really special. But honestly, between No.2 or No.3, it’s kind of the same for me.” Catching Swiatek, who’s more than 3,000 points ahead of Sabalenka, may be out of reach for Gauff at the moment. But currently embroiled in a tough battle for No.2 – even if she isn’t focused on it – Gauff could potentially leave Rome with a new career-high ranking.

How can Coco Gauff rise to World No. 2 and overthrow Aryna Sabalenka?
At the moment, Sabalenka sits less than 200 points ahead of Gauff – 185, to be exact. It’s 7,313 chasing 7,498. Coming into the Italian Open, Gauff only needed to reach the semifinals to chase down Sabalenka. But for her to overtake the Belarussian, Sabalenka would’ve had to lose before the quarterfinals. However, that hasn’t happened.

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