Coco Gauff makes startling comment about her priority of the Olympics

Gauff compared the Olympics and Grand Slam events.
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Coco Gauff really wants to play in the 2024 Summer Olympics. The 2023 US Open winner missed the 2020 Olympics because she tested positive for COVID-19. She is a better player now than she was then, of course. In 2020, she was only 16 years old. Now she is good enough to win a gold medal for the United States.

But how much does Gauff want to play in the Olympics? Quite a bit. In fact, so much so that even while professional tennis players do not earn rankings points by how well they do at the Olympics, Gauff sees the event as equal to Grand Slam tournaments, according to what she said in a pre-tournament press conference at the Italian Open.

The importance of doing well at the Olympics is nothing new to tennis, of course. Andy Murray won Olympic gold twice (2012 and 2016), Rafael Nadal won in 2008, and Alexander Zverev won in 2020. The last American woman to win was Serena Williams in 2012, and the last American man to take gold was Andre Agassi in 1996.

Coco Gauff sees the Olympics and Grand Slam events as equal

Winning a gold medal, no matter what it means on the WTA and ATP tours, is a big deal for players. If Gauff believes that the Olympics are the equal of the four biggest yearly events in tennis then that implies how important the Olympics are. As Gauff is only 20, she might be able to play in the Summer Games three more times, at least.

Gauff told reporters, "For me, the Olympics is a top priority. I would say equal to the Grand Slams. I wouldn’t put it above or below just because I’ve never played before. This is my first time. Obviously, I always want to do well, try to get a medal. Yeah, I mean, but the prep is going to be interesting because I’ve never done the grass-to-clay transition before...Hopefully, I can have the experience multiple times in my lifetime."

Gauff is still an ascending talent in women's tennis. She hasn't yet reached No. 1 - Poland's Iga Swiatek is far ahead of everyone else on the WTA tour in points currently - but she is not far behind Aryna Sabalenka for No. 2. The American has a very good chance of overtaking the Belarusian in the rankings over the summer.

Sabalenka, however, because Belarusian and Russian players cannot play in qualifying events such as the David Cup and Billie Jean Cup, will not qualify for the Olympics. The rule is a bit wonky and confusing. Sabalenka is not banned from the Olympics directly, but cannot compete because she is banned from qualifying tournaments.

Gauff does not have to worry about that issue, of course. Still, she does need to make sure she does not tire herself out. The Olympics begin in late July so Gauff could play Wimbledon in early July, the Olympics later in the same month, and the US Open in early September. That is a lot of important events close together.

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