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Coco Gauff column for BBC Sport

Coco Gauff, who shot to fame by reaching the Wimbledon last 16 as a 15-year-old in 2019, is the latest leading WTA Tour player to write a BBC Sport column.

In her latest piece at the Australian Open, the American seventh seed discusses her favourite rivalries and how she thinks the current crop of young WTA stars can create future ones.

Playing against Emma Raducanu was a match-up which I know a lot of people were looking forward to and I hope we delivered the entertainment which everyone wanted.

I don’t know if Emma and I will develop a rivalry or not for years to come – I guess that is what other people might expect – but any time there are two players aged 18 and 20 playing you would imagine they are going to play each other a lot in the future.

In my head I still think a rivalry is where you hate the person and I definitely don’t hate Emma – I really like her!

For sure, I can see from a fan perspective why they might want to see rivalries where the players don’t like each other, but some of the greatest rivalries we have ever seen in tennis have been built on incredible respect and led to lifelong friendships.

One of the most famous was Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert – although that was before I was born – and another example is, of course, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Roger and Rafa was my favourite rivalry. What they had was incredible.

As a fan watching them it was amazing to see how they played on the court like they hated each other, but then to see afterwards they could be friends and did amazing things together.

That moment at the Laver Cup where they touched hands made me emotional too!

I guess a match-up like that is something that I’d love to be part of in the future. I’m not sure it would be quite as great as them, but hopefully we can get something close.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were in tears at the Laver Cup where the Swiss retired from the sport

The older rivalries – like Martina and Chrissie, or John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg – came before my time, before I could watch them live.

Obviously I know about them, and know the history, but when you’re watching footage on YouTube you don’t get the same anticipation as when you’re watching them live.

As well as Roger and Rafa, the other match-up which I really enjoyed watching growing up was Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova – particularly being a Serena fan.

Another one I have seen live is Roger and Novak Djokovic, although when Novak won the Wimbledon title in 2019 – the year I was there – it was a heart-wrencher for me because I’m a Roger fan.

I like Novak a lot, but I like Roger maybe 10% more.

Of course, another great rivalry was Serena and Venus Williams. I was primarily rooting for Serena in their matches because she was the one who really got me into the sport, but I always flipped allegiance depending on the situation.

During the Australian Open final in 2017 I was rooting for Serena, but there have been finals where I’ve rooted for Venus.

I would flip flop sides depending on who I felt I wanted to win based on the storyline of that year or tournament.

How ‘iron sharpening iron’ forces you to be better

So who could I potentially develop a great rivalry with over the next 10 or 15 years? I don’t know for sure, there are a lot of players who you could point to.

Emma is definitely one – I think we showed that in our match, which I think was a decent quality for the most part – while there is also Iga Swiatek and Leylah Fernandez, who are a similar age.

The Fruhvirtova sisters – Linda who is 17 and Brenda who is 15 – are just starting their careers and seem to have opportunities to do something great in the game, too.

Another young player who has impressed me here in Melbourne is Diana Shnaider, who is the same age as me.

She almost caused a shock against Maria Sakkari on Wednesday, it was the first time I saw her play and she strikes the ball really well. She was crushing it.

Coco Gauff and Emma Raducanu embrace at the 2023 Australian Open

During the Tokyo Olympics there was a lot of talk about the rivalry between Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad in the 400m hurdles and there was a saying going around: iron sharpens iron.

Not only are these huge match-ups great for the fans, but they are great for the players who are involved in them.

When two athletes are at the top of their game and pushing each other – like McLaughlin and Muhammad were – it forces you to be better and forces you to raise your level.

That can only be a good thing for the sport.

I think that’s what fans are looking for and that’s what you do when you’re going against your peers, especially someone who is close in age.

There is a lot of young talent out there on the WTA Tour and because it is so saturated I think there will be match-ups which the fans love for years to come.

Coco Gauff was talking to BBC Sport’s Jonathan Jurejko at Melbourne Park.

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Coco’s previous columns from Melbourne

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