A big stunt on day 1 of Wimbledon: A 15-year-old girl shows the grande dame of tennis every corner of the court. Venus Williams (39) loses to Coco Gauff, who could easily have been her daughter.
One very deep sigh, shortly before the first ball. With that, Cori Gauff, also known as Coco, seemed to blow all the tension out of her body. She then dealt with her great idol Venus Williams in an extremely mature and impressive way. “Thank you for everything you have done. I would not have been here without you”, she says at the net to her 24-year-old opponent, whom she had just sent home 6-4, 6-4. A moment later: “I always wanted to tell her that. I met her before, but only now did I dare.”
“Against Venus? To train?”
Last Friday she received a message from her manager Tony Godsick. “Venus Williams,” it said. “What do you mean to train with?” She replied. “No: first round”. It was Gauff’s big dream to share a job with Venus or Serena Williams at Wimbledon. The chance was minimal, but she saw her wish fulfilled. The youngest qualifier ever was linked to the oldest woman on the draw.
Without mercy, Gauff sent the grande dame of grass tennis on Court 1 from the box to the wall. How was it possible that with her grand slam debut, at the age of 15, with such an opponent, she didn’t seem to have the least bit of nerves? “After every point, I said to myself: stay calm. I told myself that the lines on the track are the same as usual. Only the rest around it is somewhat larger.”
Not afraid of the Duvel
With firm blows from the baseline and every now and then a nice drop shot or lob, she clamped on Williams from the start. The five-time champion (39) saw a girl who could have been her daughter on the other side of the net. With a good head on it and not afraid of the Duvel. Sliding across the grass, she made two unnecessary mistakes in the first set.
Williams had already won four grand slams before Gauff was born on March 13, 2004, in Atlanta. The Williams family was a source of inspiration in the Gauff home, Coco said before the tournament. “Venus and Serena made me realize that it was possible to break through. There were never many colored tennis players, certainly not in North America.”
Still, her early career shows more similarities with those of her role models. Gauff was also inspired by an enthusiastic father. And she also asked for help at a renowned tennis academy, not coincidentally that of Patrick Mouratoglou, the coach of Serena Williams.
At the age of 13, she was in the junior final of the US Open, the youngest girl ever, and signed a contract with Roger Federer’s management team Team8. She was happy to receive the invitation for the Wimbledon qualification tournament, even though she had to take a chemistry exam between the parties last week.
She qualified without problems and tapped her idol off the court at Court 1 last night. Mother Candi kept taking pictures from the stands, her husband Corey was now not the coach but a very proud father. “I cried for the first time after winning a match,” said Gauff. “I have no idea how I feel now. I literally live my dream.”
Some things you didn’t know about the 15-year-old super talent:
• Her real name is Cori Gauff – “CoCo” is her nickname and was born on March 13, 2004. She wasn’t born yet when Venus won her first two Wimbledon titles
• She is the youngest winner of a first-round match at Wimbledon since Jennifer Capriati in 1991.
• Her parents were also great athletes: her father played basketball at Georgia State and her mother was an athlete at the Florida state.
• She started playing tennis at the age of seven.
• She grew up in Atlanta, but currently lives in Delray Beach in Florida
• She has two sponsors: New Balance and Barilla, an Italian food chain that also sponsors Roger Federer