Yesterday (July 1, 2019), 15-year-old Cori 'Coco' Gauff made history by beating out 39-year-old veteran Venus Williams in the American qualifiers for Wimbledon 2019, becoming the youngest female to ever qualify for a Grand Slam tournament main draw. It was a moment that shook the world, as the world number 313 cemented a place in history and kickstarted what many imagine will be a fruitful and exhilarating Wimbledon legacy. If you're looking for a role model for your kids, you don't need to look much further!
Growing up in Atlanta, before moving to Delray Beach, Florida to chase better training opportunities in tennis, Gauff picked up the sport aged just seven. Her father, Corey Gauff, is her head coach, but she has trained with a number of huge industry names. Most notably, she trained at the New Generation Tennis Academy in Florida, with Gerard Loglo, before being selected at just 11-years-old by Serena Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou, as part of his Champ'Seed foundation.
Gauff would make her International Tennis Federation debut in May of 2018, as a qualifier into the 25K event at Osprey, Florida. Here, she won her first-ever professional match, lighting a fire that would see her quickly progress to bigger things.
In June of the same year, Gauff would pick up her first Junior Grand Slam Title at the French Open, becoming the second-youngest competitor to do so at just 14.
Not just successful in singles competition, Gauff would also win the Girls' Doubles at the US Open in September 2018, alongside partner Caty McNally.
Her 2018 professional run would come to a decisive conclusion when she won the Girls, 18 and under division of the Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships.
Showing no signs of slowing down, March 2019 allowed Gauff to pick up her first-ever WTA match-win against Caty McNally. Though she lost to Daria Kasatkina in the second round of the competition, it lit a fire which would see her become the youngest person to qualify for Wimbledon in the Open Era, after winning her third qualifying round on June 27 to make it through to the main draw.
Then came the match against Williams. The industry icon was of course the favourite to progress to the next round of the tournament, but in some of the match-up's earliest moments, it became clear that Gauff wasn't going to go down without a fight. Managing to go a break up on Williams for 3-2 in the first set, Gauff would maintain that lead and seal the first set victory within 35 minutes.
The second set was a more closely-fought affair. Gauff looked to get the upper-hand once more when Williams double-faulted, handing her opponent a break. Gauff would however then do the same on her own serve, giving away a trio of match points before Williams secured a break point. It looked like she was finally getting into her groove, but Gauff would suddenly flip the match on its head once more, and go on to take her second straight set. Progressing to the next round of the competition, Gauff broke down into tears of happiness following the victory.
Asked about her young opponent by the BBC, Williams said: "I think the sky's the limit [for her], it really is. She did everything well today. She put the ball in the court, which was much better than I did. She served well, moved well. It was a great match for her."
Gauff would reveal after the match that it was the Williams sisters who first inspired her to get into the sport.
"Venus told me congratulations and keep going, she said good luck and I told her thanks for everything she did," explained Gauff.
"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her - I told her she was so inspiring and I've always wanted to tell her that but I've never had the guts to before.
"My parents will be super happy, my dad was jumping up every time I won a point. I'm so happy they spent all their time on me and my brothers and making sure we're successful. I never thought this would happen.
"I'm literally living my dream right now. I'm really happy Wimbledon gave me the chance to play, I never thought I would get this far."
Win or lose moving forward, it's clear that Gauff is one of the most exciting young tennis stars of our generation. This is just the start of her career; it's going to be very interesting to see just what she does in the years to come, and just how many professional titles she'll be able to rack up. The future of tennis is bright!
Tagged in Wimbledon