When 19-year-old Coco Gauff won the U.S. Open tennis championship on Sept. 9, she dropped to her knees in prayer.
The crowd was still roaring as she silently talked to God with her hands folded and eyes closed for about 10 seconds.
The “SportsCenter” X (Twitter) account posted a video of Gauff kneeling and claimed she was taking “a moment to soak it all in.” Former NFL head coach Tony Dungy, an outspoken Christian, corrected the account by replying that she was clearly praying.
“I was just saying thank you [to God],” Gauff clarified about the moment of prayer in an interview with Today. “I understood all the tough times were just to make that moment even sweeter. I think if it came easy, I wouldn’t feel as appreciative as I did in that moment, clearly.”
Gauff is the youngest American to win a U.S. Open since Serena Williams earned her first U.S. Open title in 1999. Last year, Gauff lost the 2022 French Open, which she said made this year’s win “sweeter than I could imagine.”
In a major comeback, the Grand Slam tennis phenom defeated Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka in the third round, 2-6, 6-3, and 6-2, on her home turf at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, New York City. Her dad, wearing a T-shirt that read “Imagine,” watched the historic moment from the crowd.
Following her first Grand Slam win, Gauff said in an on-court interview, “I don’t pray for results. I just ask that I get the strength to give it my all. Whatever happens, happens. I’m so blessed in this life. I’m just thankful for this moment.”
The resolute Christian is the first American to take home the U.S. Open title in six years.
“Congratulations to Coco Gauff on winning her first U.S. Open Grand Slam at just 19 years old!” Franklin Graham said in a Facebook post. “That’s an incredible accomplishment! And Coach Tony Dungy made it clear to sports commentators and the world that Coco wasn’t just taking in the moment when she knelt afterwards—she was praying! Coco isn’t ashamed to talk about her Christian faith, and I hope she will inspire many other young athletes. God bless you Coco!”
Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP