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Aided by McCoco, Cori Gauff’s education continues to improve
One major contributor to the 16-year-old’s improvement has been her doubles partnership with fellow American Caty McNally.
February 12, 2021
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Thirteen months ago in Melbourne, promising young American Coco Gauff made a striking Australian Open debut. She beat defending champion Naomi Osaka to reach the round of 16 then pushed eventual champion Sofia Kenin to three sets.
Year 2 was less successful with Gauff losing in the second round to No. 5-seeded Elina Svitolina, 6-4, 6-3. But in the wake of that defeat, Gauff took a nuanced view, emphasizing progress over outcome.
“Last year my third round against Naomi,” she said, “I think that was one of my best matches. Today I feel like I played better. Not the result that I wanted, but I thought that I played better.”
One major contributor to Gauff’s improvement has been her doubles partnership with fellow American Caty McNally.
“I love the fact that she’s playing doubles,” Tennis Channel analyst Martina Navratilova said Friday on TC Live.
Recent tennis history is filled with stories of singles contenders who focus so heavily on their singles that they build profoundly narrow playing styles—a limited toolbox that can soon enough plateau and even trigger burnout.
But why not learn as many skills as possible? Navigating the transition area, volleys, poaching, dart-like movements, returns, angles—all doubles-related sequences and shots that will only enhance the 16-year-old Gauff’s game and, over the course of her career, make her that much more formidable.
Along with that, Gauff and McNally enjoy the work, the play, and simply being around one another. They practice together often. Gauff’s father Corey gets on well with McNally’s team of mother and primary coach, Lynn Nabors-McNally, and Kevin O’Neill, McNally’s traveling coach. A Gauff-McNally practice session will be highlighted by a range of drills, games and fun experiments with various shots from topspin lobs to swing volleys, dynamic returns, drop shots and more.
Thursday in Melbourne, in their second round match, “McCoco” headed out to Court 3 to play the sixth-seeded team of Gabriela Dabrowski and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, two highly experienced doubles players who between them have won 11 Grand Slam doubles titles.
Gauff and McNally won handily, 6-1, 6-2, utterly swarming their more experienced opponents with energy, power, and movement.
It will be intriguing to see how Gauff and McNally evolve in the years to come. Each is still young, very much in the early stage of hope and potential ascent. There will come many a solo moment—the glorious wins, the frustrating losses, as well as those solitary midnights of the soul in a hotel room far from home. But collaboration has powerful virtues. Just ask Navratilova, winner of 177 WTA doubles titles; and also as complete a player as tennis has ever seen. Doubles: a great way to broaden the arsenal and a counterpoint to the loneliness that pervades tennis.