Who Is Teenage Tennis Phenom Coco Gauff?
Coco Gauff already has made a name for herself in women's tennis.
After stunning Venus Williams in straight sets at Wimbledon 2019 in her first match at the All England Club, the 15-year-old Gauff became the youngest player to win a match since 1991. She reached the fourth round of the tournament before falling to Simona Halep, the eventual champion.
Gauff is a superstar in the making with a big dream. Here are 17 facts you need to know about the girl who wants to be the greatest of all time.
Cori Gauff Was Born on March 13, 2004.
Cori "Coco" Gauff entered Wimbledon as the 313th ranked player in the world, no small feat given the fact she was born roughly halfway through the George W. Bush presidential campaign.
The average cost of a gallon of gas was $1.74 in the United States in 2004. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg that year. Yelp joined the social media sphere. And Google launched Gmail as tech took off.
Feeling old yet?
Coco Was the Youngest Player to Ever Qualify for Wimbledon.
Gauff was 15 years, 122 days when she made the main draw at Wimbledon.
She still needed a wild-card spot and to win three qualifying matches in the weeks before Wimbledon just to qualify for the major.
Gauff also attempted to qualify for the main draw of the French Open and won her first qualifying match before bowing out in the Round of 64 to Kaja Juvan of Slovakia.
The last 15-year-old to qualify for the Wimbledon main draw was Jennifer Capriati, who also reached the fourth round during her Cinderella run in 1991.
She Has Been Compared to Her Idols, Venus and Serena Williams.
Gauff thanked Venus Williams after defeating her 6-4, 6-2 and credited both Venus and Serena Williams for her reaching that point.
"I told her, 'Thank you for everything that you did, I wouldn’t be here without you,' " Gauff said after the win. "I always wanted to tell her that."
"They’re the reason I wanted to pick up a racket," Gauff added about Venus and Serena. "I met them both, and they’re both super-kind people, and I’m just super happy and thankful they chose to play tennis."
Like the Williams sisters, Gauff, who is 5-foot-10, has been coached by her father and has garnered comparisons to them.
"She reminds me of Venus, her body and everything," Serena told The Guardian before the first-round match. "She’s a fantastic young lady. She works hard. Every time I see her out there working, training her and her dad, it reminds me of the time I was out there with my dad."
Celebrities Took Notice of Her Run.
Aside from the tennis world, rapper Jaden Smith (son of Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith), Michelle Obama, rapper Snoop Dogg, actor Samuel L. Jackson, Philadelphia 76ers forward Joel Embiid and others shared social media praise for Coco Gauff's incredible performance in England, specifically after she survived two match points and rallied from a set down to defeat Polona Hercog in the third round on July 5.
"Shoutout to @CocoGauff You’re The One," Smith tweeted.
"Coco is terrific," Obama tweeted.
"Bruh watching Coco Gauff is low key like watching game 7 #NiceWin," Embiid shared.
Coco Idolizes Michelle Obama and Jaden Smith.
Jaden Smith’s new album dropped the same day Coco defeated Hercog in the third round at Wimbledon, and she was asked which she was more excited about.
"Both," Gauff told reporters. "I’m super-happy that his album came out, because it’s been long anticipated, at least for me."
Gauff won nearly $300,000 in prize money from her Wimbledon run and said she’d probably use the money to purchase hoodies from Smith’s collection.
She also went crazy for the tweets from Smith and Michelle Obama.
"When you finally have time to scroll thru twitter #idol," Gauff tweeted July 9 after noticing the shoutout from Obama.
A month later, Gauff got to meet the former First Lady, who gave her advice on how to handle scrutiny.
"She just told me to stay focused and stay calm, and that people aren’t going to like you all the time. And the same people that might be cheering for you might be the same people that might be pulling you down in the future," Gauff said during an interview with Think Progress. "So she just told me just to only care really about the opinions of the people who actually love and care about me."
She Committed to Tennis at Age 8.
Her dad Corey reportedly tried to get her to play basketball, but she wasn’t a good shooter.
She also tried to play gymnastics, soccer and track but decided to focus solely on tennis at age 8.
"When it comes to tennis, you’ve got to have good technical development. You’ve got to have good technique," Corey told Black Tennis Magazine in 2017. "Be a well-rounded athlete, learn other sports … We wanted her to develop as a total athlete."
She Is From Delray Beach, Florida, But Spent Her First Seven Years in Atlanta.
Coco Gauff’s parents moved to Florida when she was 7 so her tennis game could take off, even though she didn’t fully commit to the sport for another year.
Gauff’s mom, Candi Odom, grew up in Delray Beach, Florida, where Cori lives and trains presently. She is home-schooled, and reportedly took a science test mere hours before her final Wimbledon qualifying match against Greet Minnen. Her school teachers also had no idea she was taking the test from Wimbledon.
"After I made the main draw here, two of my teachers found out I play tennis," Cori told reporters. "They saw my name in an article. I have three other teachers that don’t know I play tennis. I’m not really the type of person to talk about myself, so I think they don’t know."
Her Parents Were Athletes, Too.
According to Nola.com, her dad Corey Gauff was born in New Orleans, grew up in Florida and played tennis as a teenager up while visiting family members in Louisiana. He then enjoyed a college basketball career at Georgia State as a point guard, who came off the bench and averaged almost five points, three rebounds and more than two assists per game in 12 minutes over three seasons for the Panthers.
Candi Gauff also also a standout youth athlete who participated in gymnastics and participated in track and field at Atlantic High School in Delray Beach. According to the Sun-Sentinel, she was the first to win the Florida state heptathlon for two consecutive years and the first to score more than 5,000 points.
She went on to a four-year heptathlon career at Florida State University from 1988 to 1992.
"Candi was a very well-rounded athlete. She did the multi-events, which meant she had to run, jump, hurdle, throw, all those things," Terry Long, Candi’s coach at Florida State, told the Tallahassee Democrat. "She was a top-quality athlete, just an absolute dream to have on the squad. She was intelligent, motivated, a good competitor."
Her Dad Is Her Coach, but She Trains With Serena Williams' Instructor.
Cori is named after her dad, who spells his name Corey, but she goes by Coco to differentiate herself from her father.
Her dad, who played tennis growing up, coaches her full-time, but she also learns tennis from Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams’ coach, and trains once a year with him at his academy in southern France, according to The New York Times.
Despite pressure to improve her coaching as Gauff’s profile rises, her mom Candi told "Outside the Lines" that it is important that she continue to be coached by her dad.
"We always say coaches come and go, but your parents are always going to be there no matter what," Candi told ESPN. "No one is going to love you more. No one is going to protect you more. No one is going to look out for you more than your parents."
Her Dad Owns a Bar, Which Became a Breeding Ground for Fans.
Corey owns and operates Paradise Sports Lounge in Delray Beach, which became ground zero to watch Gauff’s matches. Members of the Gauff family who weren’t at the tournament flocked to the bar, and more people followed to support the local hero as her run through Wimbledon went deeper.
The bar even served pastries during her match against Halep, and the fans chanted, "We are proud of you," after Gauff's loss, according to Dave Hyde of the Sun-Sentinel.
Ironically, that bar also has become a point of contention for the Gauff family. According to The Daily Mail, Corey Gauff’s mom Dr. Deborah Wright is suing him for damages because he "phased her out of a business she heavily invested in."
The report indicates that Wright invested her retirement fund to open the bar, but that she’s been barred from entering the establishment.
She Has Two Brothers Who Break Her Trophies.
Like Coco, her brother Codey, 11, and Cameron, 6, each have the initials CDG. Her siblings also have an innate ability to destroy her trophies.
"My brothers have a trend of accidentally breaking things," Gauff told USTA.com in 2018. "They broke a couple of my other trophies before. It was a little glass trophy, so it smashed."
According to Palm Beach Post, Gauff’s brothers stayed in Florida while she played abroad, but she was excited to see them upon her return home. Their roughhousing isn’t saved only for her trophies.
"Codey fell because he got so excited and he pushed Cameron out of the way," Cori told Palm Beach Post. "I was like, 'Codey, you can’t be so rough. I’m right here.' "
She Got Mixed Up in a Doubles Controversy.
Gauff was embroiled in the center of a controversy involving her new mixed-doubles partner Jay Clarke. Gauff asked Clarke if they wanted to play together during Wimbledon, but Clarke already had a partner in Harriet Dart.
Clarke dumped Dart — by text message, no less — and joined a tandem with Gauff at Wimbledon.
"That was tough," Clarke told The Daily Mail. "I think it’s the worst decision I have had to make especially mid-tournament."
The opportunity was too good to pass up for Clarke.
"Hopefully, [Dart] understands why I did it," Clarke said. "I’m sorry for her it happened."
Gauff and Clarke lost 6-1, 6-4 in their Wimbledon opener against Robert Lindstedt and Jelena Ostapenko.
She Prays for Her Opponent Before Every Match.
Gauff’s dad has helped her with a spiritual side, and they pray together before every match.
"Before every match since I was 8, my dad and I say a prayer together," Gauff told The New York Times. "We don’t really pray about victory, just that me and my opponent stay safe."
Prayer and spirituality are a big part of Gauff’s game, which is led by her father.
"We are very spiritual people," Corey told Black Tennis Magazine in 2017. "You have to be spiritually in tune with whatever you believe, that’s going to be the guiding principle behind your development, how much you believe and how much you pray on what you’re trying to accomplish.
"I think it’s so important because it’s easy to get away from some of these simple principles that make these kids well-rounded."
She Could Be Rich Soon.
If you don’t deem $300,000-plus in tennis earnings — more than $290,000 of which came from her surprising Wimbledon run — wealthy, consider her endorsements. She started wearing and promoting New Balance in 2018, then added a deal with Barilla pasta she signed in March.
Roger Federer's agency, Team 8, represents the American prodigy, and Forbes has estimated she’ll be a millionaire by the start of 2020, which is fortunate given the financial implications of Gauff’s training and travel.
"It’s one of the most expensive and unbelievable financial commitments you’ll ever make as a parent," Corey told Black Tennis Magazine. "We’ve made sacrifices. We’ve downsized."
Coco Has Lofty Goals.
Gauff is considered the next great American women’s tennis player, and she’s not shying away from the hype.
"I want to be the greatest of all time," she told ESPN in 2017.
"I want to be better than Serena [Williams]," she told the Palm Beach Post after her run through Wimbledon.
It may be a bold statement given Gauff’s age, but it isn’t too outrageous if you believe those that know.
"If she isn’t No. 1 in the world by the time she is 20, I’d be absolutely shocked," seven-time Grand Slam winner John McEnroe told Reuters.
"She’s been raised for greatness, and this is just the beginning," said two-time Grand Slam winner Tracy Austin after she beat Williams.
Her Run Is Only Just Beginning.
If you’ve fallen in love with Coco Gauff, you’re in luck, because she isn’t going anywhere.
"The sky isn't the limit," Gauff told ABC News. "You can go as far as you want. And I think that anything is possible at any age or any point of time in your life."
She's proven she can handle the world stage, and although the Women's Tennis Association limits the number of tournaments a teenager can play, Coco plans to win as many as she can.
Until her dream of being the GOAT comes true.