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The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Coco Gauff: The future of tennis and sports stars

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Tennis champion Coco Gauff, now 19, first rose to prominence in 2019 when she defeated Venus Williams in Wimbledon.

Scientists say that all of the stars in our galaxy are a product of an incredible amount of pressure and a delicate balance of forces. The same conditions are necessary to produce our stars on Earth. At age 19, U.S. Open champion Coco Gauff has joined the ranks of other legendary athletes as a star born to inspire the next generation of young athletes.

On March 13, 2004, Gauff was born into a family of athletes, making it only natural that she became hooked on a plethora of sports. According to a 2020 article from the Guardian, Gauff set her sights on a tennis career after watching Serena Williams’ victory in the 2009 Australian Open. 

Following in her idol’s footsteps, Gauff moved to France at age 10 to be trained by Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou. However, her father, Corey Gauff, was always her main coach and advisor.

“When it comes to sports—to be really good in sports—really anything, it takes a level of discipline, so I’d consider myself a disciplinarian,” Corey Gauff said in a 2017 interview with Black Tennis Magazine. 

“It’s not a discipline of if you don’t do something right I’m going to spank you; it’s a discipline of getting to the court on time, proper warm-ups, proper focus, etc.,” he said in the interview. “You know that kind of discipline makes athletes successful because they’re willing to say no to some things and say yes to some things.”

Gauff felt pressure from all angles throughout her career, from her father encouraging her to participate in gymnastics, soccer, basketball and track, to the anticipating eyes of millions watching her take on the world’s greatest athletes. However, Gauff’s main source of pressure was herself. For instance, in 2019, at the age of 15, she challenged herself to become a top-100 player in the Women’s Tennis Association rankings, according to a 2019 article from the Guardian.

That same year, Gauff rose to prominence when she received an unexpected wild card spot at Wimbledon, an opportunity that landed her face-to-face against another personal idol, Venus Williams. After defeating Williams and advancing to the third round of the U.S. Open later that year, “Cocomania” exploded around the world in support of the emerging prodigy.

Just four years after her breakout performances, Gauff returned to the U.S. Open, this time making it to the final round where she faced Belarusian player Aryna Sabalenka. Sabalenka dominated the first set of the match, but thanks to Gauff’s sensational defense, she secured the 2023 U.S. Open championship in a 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory, making her the youngest player to win the tournament since Serena Williams in 1999. 

As a stellar athlete, there is a lot that young players can learn from Gauff’s gameplay and technique, but even more can be learned from her mindset and actions off the court. 

In preparation for the U.S. Open, Gauff avoided social media to maintain a poised attitude and prevent negative opinions on the internet from distracting her from her goal, according to an interview with CNBC.  

“A lesson I can take from Coco is her mindset,” said Jolie Nhouyvanisvong, a Guilford junior tennis player. “When others doubt her potential or ability, she uses it to fuel herself.”

Additionally, off the court, Gauff uses her platform as an athlete on the world stage to advocate for the movements she believes in, from climate change to LGBTQ awareness to combating racial injustice in and out of sports, as she has said in interviews with the Guardian, ABC News and CNN.

Despite her young age, Gauff’s otherworldly athletic talent, unwavering belief in her principles and ability to withstand both internal and external pressures exemplify the qualities of a true champion— both on the court and as a champion for others. Teenagers, women, black people and athletes alike have noticed the importance of having someone like Gauff in modern sports.  

“She inspires me,” said Ama Mante, a Guilford Early College junior. “She’s successful, she’s poised and smart and she’s only a teenager, so I feel like if she can be the success that she is while also being a good person, then I can also do that.”

“She also inspires so many other people worldwide as a motivational figure, so I feel like she is proving to us minority, black women that we can go out there and be successful like her,” Mante said. “She’s setting the example.”

With every coming generation of athletes, a handful stand out as something truly special, as someone with more than physical prowess. Players like Michael Jordan, Jesse Owens and Mia Hamm belong to the immortal constellation of athletes that offer multi-generational guidance to people all over the world. In her career so far, Coco Gauff has demonstrated a balance between incredible athleticism and well-roundedness that could earn her a spot among those other stars for years to come.

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