AO Spotlight: Coco Gauff

  • Matt Trollope

You have to go back decades to find a player as young as Coco Gauff who enjoyed equivalent success.

In her unusually rapid transition from junior to pro circuits, the American teen has already appeared in the second week at two Grand Slam tournaments, won a WTA title and cracked the top 50.

Experts are saying …

“She’s just impressive all around, from her personality to the way she plays. I was nowhere near her level at 15 … not even close. I was nowhere near as smart and eloquent as she is. So it’s nice to see.”
- Serena Williams

“She's going to have the potential to do some amazing things in this sport. I hit with her when she was 12 at Miami. I hit with her this year again. She's the real deal. She's amazing.”
- Nick Kyrgios

On court

Gauff was the world No.1 junior after winning the Roland Garros girls’ singles title in 2018; a year earlier, at age 13, she was the youngest ever US Open junior finalist.

At Wimbledon in 2019 – just her fourth tour-level event – she became the youngest player to qualify for the main draw in the Open Era, then advanced to the last 16 with a landmark win over Venus Williams along the way.

Her profile exploded; her third-round win over Polona Hercog attracted more than five million viewers on the BBC, the tournament’s highest-rating match until the Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal semifinal.

She later progressed to the third round of the US Open and the fourth round at AO 2020 – upsetting defending champion Naomi Osaka at the latter – and in between claimed her first WTA title in Linz, becoming the youngest women’s tour-level champion in 15 years.

When she could compete in 2020, she reached the semifinals in Lexington and scored her fourth career win over a top-15 player by beating Johanna Konta at Roland Garros.

Notable stat

At 15 years and 115 days old, Gauff became the youngest player to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon since Jennifer Capriati in 1991, and the last 16 at any Grand Slam event since Anna Kournikova at the 1996 US Open.

Off court

Gauff inherited her sporting genes from her parents, both US collegiate athletes.

But perhaps her grandmother played the greatest role in instilling within Gauff a sense of social justice, after detailing her experiences as the first black student to attend a Florida high school in 1961.

“I think it’s sad that I’m protesting the same thing that she did 50-plus years ago,” Gauff said at a Black Lives Matter rally in Delray Beach earlier in 2020. “I promise to always use my platform to spread awareness and fight racism.”

Part of that platform is her engaging social media presence, where she has amassed more than one million followers across Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Facebook.

X-factor

Gauff’s serve is already fearsome – even before she turned 16 in March 2020, she attained first-serve speeds as high as 190km/h.

Also notable is her seemingly innate command of quality shot-selection and an ability to balance impressive defensive and offensive skills.

And that’s just on the court. 

“How many 16-year-olds are stepping out front and centre like Coco, maybe Greta Thunberg?” said 1996 Wimbledon finalist MaliVai Washington of Gauff’s BLM speech.

“(Her parents) must have done a significant job with her to have the confidence and self-awareness to even want to put herself out there with such a hotbed issue.”

She said …

“Honestly, like, what is my life? Oh my gosh. Two years ago I lost first round in juniors, and now I’m here. This is crazy.”
- Gauff, after beating Osaka at AO 2020.