MIAMI, Florida – Delray Beach resident and rising tennis star Cori “Coco” Gauff, who became a star as the youngest player at the 2019 Wimbledon tennis tournament in England, is the Caribbean National Weekly’s female newsmaker of 2019.
Since July 1, 2019, the name Cori “Coco” Gauff became known nationally and across the world of tennis as the 15-year-old soundly defeated her idol, tennis icon Venus Williams, 39, in two sets – 6-4, 6-4 in the women singles first round at the Wimbledon tennis tournament in England.
Gauff, an African-American, was the youngest ever competitor to qualify to play at Wimbledon in the professional era. Entering Wimbledon she was ranked 313 in the world, and although she had been playing impressively before, she was considered to be there just for the experience.
Those, including her parents, who have witnessed Gauff’s progress in the sport in recent years expect her to excel on the international circuit.
In a post-game interview after defeating Venus Williams, Gauff said she never thought she would have won and “I’m literally living my dream right now.”
Gauff made her ITF debut in May 2018 as a qualifier into the 25K event at Osprey, where she won her first professional match. At age 14, she won her first Junior Grand Slam Title in June 2018 at the French Open.
In September 2018, she won the Girls’ Doubles at the US Open with her partner Caty McNally. Gauff finished 2018 strong by winning the Girls (18 and under) division of the Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships.
At the 2019 Miami Open in March, Gauff recorded her first World Tennis Association (WTA) match-win against Caty McNally. In the second round, she lost to Daria Kasatkina.
Following her loss in the second round of qualifying at the French Open, Gauff qualified for the main draw at Wimbledon, after entering the qualifying draw using a wildcard. She upset world No. 92 Aliona Bolsova, the top seed in the qualifying draw, in the first round and defeated No. 128 Greet Minnen in the third and final qualifying round while only losing two games.
After upsetting Venus Williams in her first match at Wimbledon, Gauff amazingly continued her run into the fourth round with victories over Magdaléna Rybáriková and No. 60 Polona Hercog. She was eliminated with a fourth-round loss to eventual champion Simona Halep. With her Wimbledon performance, Gauff rose to No. 141 in the world.
Gauff played in one US Open Series tournament at the Citi Open, where she qualified for the main draw but lost in the first round. She also entered the doubles event with Caty McNally and defeated Fanny Stollár and Maria Sanchez in the final for their first career WTA title in their first WTA event together.
At the US Open, Gauff was awarded wild cards into the singles and doubles main draws. She continued her Grand Slam success in singles with two three-set wins over Anastasia Potapova and Tímea Babos, but was defeated in the third round by world No. 1 Naomi Osaka.
In doubles, Gauff and McNally also won two matches, including an upset over ninth seeds Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke. They lost in the third round to eventual runners-up Ashleigh Barty and Victoria Azarenka.
Gauff entered two more tournaments following the US Open. Although she lost in qualifying at the Linz Open, she entered the main draw as a lucky loser and won the title, notably upsetting top seed Kiki Bertens in the quarterfinals for her first top ten victory. She defeated Jeļena Ostapenko in the final to become the youngest WTA player to win a singles title since 2004. With this title as well as a semifinal in doubles with McNally, she made her top 100 debuts in both the WTA singles and doubles rankings. Gauff and McNally ended their year with a second WTA doubles title at the Luxembourg Open over Kaitlyn Christian and Alexa Guarachi.
In September, Gauff represented the United States at the Junior Fed Cup with Alexa Noel and Connie Ma. The team reached the final against Ukraine. After Gauff won her singles rubber and Noel lost hers, Gauff and Noel won the Junior Fed Cup by defeating Lyubov Kostenko and Dasha Lopatetskaya in the decisive doubles rubber that ended 11–9 in a match tiebreak.
Gauff was born on March 13, 2004, to Candi and Corey Gauff, both of whom are from Delray Beach, Florida. She has two younger brothers, Codey and Cameron. Her father played college basketball at Georgia State University, while her mother was a track and field athlete at Florida State University.
Gauff initially grew up in Atlanta, and first became interested in tennis at age four after watching Serena Williams win the 2009 Australian Open on television. She began playing tennis at the age of six and decided she wanted to pursue it as a career because it was an individual sport and because of her early success in winning the “Little Mo” eight-and-under nationals at the age of eight. Gauff recalled, “I wasn’t much of a team person. I loved tennis. I was so-so about it in the beginning because when I was younger I didn’t want to practice at all. I just wanted to play with my friends. When I turned eight, that was when I played “Little Mo” and after that, I decided to do that for the rest of my life.”
When Gauff was seven years old, her family returned to Delray Beach so that she would have better opportunities to train in tennis. While in Florida, she worked with Gerard Loglo at the New Generation Tennis Academy for a few years starting from the age of eight. Both of Gauff’s parents gave up their careers to focus on training their daughter, with her father later taking over as her primary coach and her mother overseeing her homeschooling.
At 10 years old, Gauff also began to train at the Mouratoglou Academy in France, run by Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams’ longtime coach. Mouratoglou commented, “I’ll always remember the first time I saw Coco. She came over to the Mouratoglou Academy in 2014 to try out and she impressed me with her determination, athleticism and fighting spirit…When she looks at you and tells you she will be number one you can only believe it.”