Tennis players– Coco Gauff, 19, and Ben Shelton, 20– recently made an impressive showing at the annual U.S. Open. Gauff became the youngest American woman to win the tournament since Serena Williams in 1999, and Shelton became the youngest American man to reach the final four since Michael Chang in 1992.
People like Jake Lasceski (’26), Walker Michaels (’24) and Caleb Schuring (’24), who are all on the men’s tennis team at Alma, have been following these players for several years.
“I have been following [Ben Shelton] for quite some time,” said Michaels. “One major reason… why I follow him is that I actually got to see him play at the [national] tournament in Kalamazoo just a couple [of] years ago and now he is in the pro tour. It’s cool to have that connection to him and see his progress in such a short period of time.”
“I have been following Coco Gauff for a couple [of] years now. She is an incredible rising player, and I feel a lot of excitement for the young American tennis stars,” said Schuring.
Videos of the players have been circulating all over TikTok for several weeks showing Gauff’s win over the number-one-ranked player in women’s singles, Aryna Sabalenka. Videos also capture Shelton’s 149 mile-per-hour serve– the fastest recorded serve at the US Open this year.
“I think TikTok helps introduce new audiences to tennis, especially during big events with a lot of media coverage like the U.S. Open. It helps grow the sport and [makes it] more accessible to more people,” said Lasceski.
Some of the videos include Gauff defending herself to the ref when her opponent was repeatedly not ready for her serve, resulting in cheering from the crowd in support of Gauff.
Others include Shelton’s semi-final match against Novak Djokovic, where, although Shelton did not win, Djokovic was seen copying Shelton’s celebration– mimicking picking up a phone and slamming it down.
While some may believe these actions by the older players in the matches against Gauff and Shelton indicate that they may be intimidated by the younger players, this may not actually be the case.
“In Coco Gauff’s [match], I believe her opponent was just trying to control the pace of the game, and maybe also throw off Coco’s own pace to gain an edge on her,” said Schuring.
“There is a fine line between taking your time between points to stay in [control] and attempting to get in the mind of your opponent… However, these are tactics I think all players use regardless of their age.”
As for Djokovic, he may just have wanted to shut Shelton down after the high he likely had after winning his previous match. “I think Djokovic knew Shelton was hoping to carry his momentum into this match and Novak wanted to show him that Ben still has a long way to go,” said Michaels.
Furthermore, “I think it was [Djokovic’s] way of showing the [audience] that his steady and domineering tennis style beats Shelton’s flashy performances,” said Schuring.
Both Gauff and Shelton obviously have bright futures ahead of them if they are doing so well at such a young age already. Their success only inspires our Alma tennis players to be the best they can be.
“Gauff and Shelton are electric competitors. Seeing their passion is definitely inspiring,” said Lasceski.
“They… inspire me… to put in more effort in practice and our matches because watching them play well makes me also want to play to the best of my ability,” said Schuring.
Gauff’s and Shelton’s respective performances surely predict great things for the next generation of players, as well.“I think these two players will give hope to tons of the younger generation who are hoping to someday make their way to the pro tour,” said Michaels.
“I think it might create a mentality of ‘If Ben and Coco can do it, why can’t I?’ which I think is going to inspire a lot of young players to work even harder. It’s an exciting time for American tennis.”