Young tennis player Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff took Wimbledon by storm this year. Although she was defeated by Simona Halep of Romania in a round of 16, the 15-year-old Atlanta native’s run in the British tournament was historic.
It all began when Gauff competed in the wildcard qualifiers. She was the 12th youngest to get the opportunity, but the only one to qualify for the tournament’s main draw. In the last of her qualifying games, she defeated Greet Minnen of Belgium 6-1, 6-1.
Wimbledon gives out wildcards to players who do not have the world ranking, basing the invite on the players past performance at Wimbledon and on if said athletes can pique the interest of British spectators.
Gauff became the center of attention immediately, being matched up with her idol and five-time Wimbledon singles champion, Venus Williams. With a focus only on winning the match, Gauff executed four aces and secured 32 first serve points over Williams’ 25. Despite having five double faults, Gauff made all three of her break points.
“I told [Williams] thank you for everything that you did,” Gauff said. “I wouldn’t be here without you. I always wanted to tell her that.”
In the next round, she faced Magdelena Rybarikova of Slovakia and defeated her on straight sets. Gauff hit 28 winning first serves and Rybarikova made 23 unforced errors.
“It just shows if you really work hard, you can get where you want to go,” Gauff said. “I don’t put expectations on myself, but I have goals and my goal is to win it.”
Round three brought some challenges for Gauff, as she battled Polona Hercog of Slovenia. Gauff lost the first set 3-6 but won the second set in a tiebreaker and claimed the third set 7-5. Although Hercog made four aces and 108 total points, Gauff overcame it with three break points and 18 net points. Hercog also squandered two match points.
That match made Gauff the youngest player to reach the round of 16 in Wimbledon since Jennifer Capriati in 1991. Going into her match against no.7 ranked Halep, Gauff had long surpassed British interest.
Gauff—a current resident of Delray Beach, Florida—had garnered the support of former first lady Michelle Obama, the Miami Dolphins, the Miami Heat, and Italian pasta company, Barilla via Twitter at this point.
Sparring against Halep was difficult for Gauff, who made 29 unforced errors. Although Gauff made six more net points, Halep won the match 6-3, 6-3.
Gauff’s run in Wimbledon permeated to her parents, who have been swamped with media requests in regards to their daughter. They spoke with well-known Good Morning America broadcaster, Robin Roberts, explaining Gauff’s match-up against Williams, and how the Williams sisters journey helped them carve out a path for Gauff in the tennis world.
Both of Gauff’s parents were collegiate athletes; her father, Corey, playing basketball and her mother, Candi, running track.
“We hadn’t seen many African American women in the sport. So, when [Venus and Serena] started winning and having success and trailblazing, some of the challenges that they went through made it a lot easier to get into the sport,” Corey said on Good Morning America. “And it allowed us to be a lot more confident about choosing [tennis].”
Gauff began playing in the ITF juniors circuit when she was 13-years-old and became ranked no. 1 in the world in the junior’s sector. She had major success in 2018, when she won a junior singles Grand Slam at the French Open and a junior doubles grand slam in the US Open.