March 11, 2020
The Biggest Tennis Star of Her Generation: Cori 'Coco' Gauff, 15
Record-breaker Cori "Coco" Gauff was born on March 13, 2004. Read that again.
It’s hard to believe what the young tennis pro has accomplished since birth, which happened to be around the time the average millennial graduated from uni, and at which point Williams had already won six grand slam titles.
And it’s also hard not to tear up watching the 15-year-old’s win against Venus Williams at Wimbledon a few weeks ago (thank goodness for our Precision Liquid Eyeliner's staying power).
Gauff’s dream-like charge into the last 16 at Wimbledon has turned her into a worldwide phenomenon. She was granted a wild card at Wimbledon this year, becoming the youngest person ever to qualify for the tournament.
And of course, like all great things, this high has not come easy.The Delray Beach, Florida, resident, began playing tennis at age six. Gauff's supportive parents were both college athletes in Georgia and Florida. Gauff's mother, Candi, ran track at Florida State University, while her father played basketball for Georgia State University. They both gave up their careers to focus on training their daughter, with her father, who had limited experience playing tennis growing up, later taking over as her primary coach while her mother oversaw her homeschooling.
At eight years old she met her idol Serena Williams for the first time at a tournament in New York. Gauff got the veteran American player to autograph a tennis ball. "She's always been my favourite player," Gauff once said, according to ESPN. Apparently, Williams told her to "keep on doing what you're doing." By the age of 12, she said she wanted emulate Williams and become "the greatest of all time."
20-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer, whose TEAM8 management firm represents Gauff, said before her win over Venus Williams that he was "super happy" that she qualified for the main draw. "I saw the last couple of games when she qualified," he said, according to Reuters. "It's a great story. Coco is a nice girl, works really hard. I think she's obviously got a wonderful future ahead of herself."
As a testament to London’s cosmopolitan and sports-loving spirit, Gauff felt at home here. "I really did feel like I was probably playing in New York somewhere," Gauff told reporters. "It was really surprising because you don't really expect this kind of support when you're in another country”.
She was eliminated when she lost her match with Simona Halep in the fourth round of the tournament, but the world at large is clearly impressed, evidenced by supportive tweets from Michelle Obama, among many others.
To get an impression of how far people in tennis expect Gauff to go, the former three-time Wimbledon champion John McEnroe said it best. "If she isn't number one in the world by the time she is 20, I would be absolutely shocked," he said, according to Reuters. She will also reportedly be a millionaire before the end of the year.
Of course, there is a regular teenage girl after our own heart in there. Three years ago, her father told ESPN that Coco took to tennis when she was six years old because "she liked the skirts." A win-win.