Rick Macci Analysis: Coco Gauff
Feb 10, 2024
Legendary coach Rick Macci has been delivering succinct analyses of the games of several leading pros (past and present) through in-depth interviews with Florida Tennis. Macci continues in this post with his views on Coco Gauff.
Amazing performance by Coco Gauff last summer, not just New York. But it just goes to show you, even in the first match she played at the U.S. Open, it was a rough day at the office. She played a 35-year-old who was chipping and chopping, slicing and dicing. She found a way to win.
I just feel her mental strength - besides being an Olympic sprinter with a racquet in her hand - and a rock-solid backhand, she could found a way to win that first match.
It was the first match on Ashe, 7:00, celebrating everything the great Billie Jean King has done, packed house. You couldn’t put someone more in the limelight. For her to come out with a “W” , she’ll have that learning experience in her back pocket forever. And the icing on the cake is she found a way to win that match, even if it wasn’t her best performance.
So, fast forward, she did have a few more Houdini escapes, but she bacame U.S. Open champion at age 19. And I think it just goes to show you how foot speed and movement are a premium.
Are there holes in her game? Sure, like everybody. No one’s like the perfect specimen. But at the end of the day she has one of the best serves on the tour, she can hit her spots. I feel her slice serve on the deuce court, and I’ve never said this before, is trending to be like the GOAT Serena. She can hit the can opener on a dime.
So her cut serve on the deuce court, and up the T on the ad court, in my opinion is the best in the world in women’s tennis. And it gets you out of a jam.
That’s just one more piece of the puzzle that she can get out of things because she has a great serve. The second serve - a little bit of a speed bump. I think biomechanically there can be a tweak there.
Her backhand is rock solid, she can take it up the line or cross court. And the one thing I like about the forehand is that when she stays authoritative and decisive, and goes to the ball and plays the ball, the body becomes more the car and the racquet the passenger.
You see, it’s very hard to change muscle memory of something you’ve done for 12 years. She’s always done the forehand where the arm has led the body. And the leg drive should initiate the racquet. And now she's playing the ball more. So she got more points for free on the forehand.
And she wasn’t as tough on herself. I felt mentally she was much calmer and not trying to be a perfectionist, I saw a little more maturity.
So all these little things. As you know, in life the little things make the biggest difference. That’s why she became U.S. Open champion.
Now all that being said, her forehand - if she would take the time and learn the ATP forehand, which is heavy topspin, I think her forehand could be one of the best in the world, because you’re putting it on a world-class athlete — in my opinion the best athlete on the tour. And she has a lot of loose wires and she’s elastic, so if you can put optimal stroke mechanics on that type of athlete, good things are baking in the oven.
So, we’ll see where that all goes. In the past I’ve had discussions with Corey (Coco’s father). If she ever has the time off, I’d give it a shot.
But all that being said, there was a mechanical adjustment that I saw last summer and at the U.S. Open. Her non-dominant hand, her left hand, she was in certain situations, holding onto the racquet longer. Now what that did, that kept the left side of her body in the shot longer. She didn’t open up too soon, she wasn’t disconnected, the racquet wasn’t lagging as much.
Anybody who thinks this is a grip issue, you’re wrong. You can play with that grip. There’s not a wrong way or a right way, there’s a better way.
At the end of the day she’s a champion. The whole family is full of champions, and the main thing is once you get one you want two. So I think the best days are in the future, and I think the US Open was the first of many Grand Slams for Coco.
Interview with Rick Macci was conducted by Florida Tennis Founder and Editor Jim Martz. This article also appears in the November/December 2023 issue of Florida Tennis Magazine. Be sure to subscribe for expanded coverage, exclusive interviews, and in-depth tennis news. Photos: Porsche AG. Video: ESPN West Palm