BLACK HISTORY MONTH: COCO GAUFF
In celebration of Black History Month, USTA.com is taking a look at several talented, young African-American players who are following in the footsteps of pioneering players like Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe and the Williams sisters and seem ready to make their own mark in tennis. First up is rising American teenager Coco Gauff.
Cori "Coco" Gauff has been described by many observers as the next Serena Williams, largely because of her unbridled confidence, her power-first baseline game, and, yes, the color of her skin. It's becoming strangely commonplace for fans to look at a talented young player like Gauff and feel immediately comfortable comparing her with arguably the greatest player to ever pick up a racquet, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Gauff is two years away from being allowed to drive herself to tournaments and four years away from being allowed to play a full pro tennis season.
There's no denying what Gauff has accomlished at such a young age, but a modicum of restraint is still needed, even if Gauff herself has long said she wants to be the greatest of all time. The sky may be her limit, but with just a handful of professional singles tournaments under her belt and an entire career of inevitable peaks and valleys ahead of her, she still needs to learn how to walk before she can run—let alone fly.
Residence: Delray Beach, Fla.
Current Rank: 581 (career high)
- Gauff won her first professional match in May 2018 at the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Osprey, Fla. She notched the biggest pro win of her career to date last week at the Dow Tennis Classic in Midland, Mich., defeating fellow American wild card and world No. 244 Ashley Kratzer, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4. The victory earned her 13 WTA ranking points and $1,520, as she climbed from No. 684 to 581 with the first-round win. She went on to lose to top seed and world No. 57 Rebecca Peterson of Sweden in the Round of 16, 6-2, 6-1. Gauff and Ann Li also reached the doubles final, defeating the top seeds en route to the championship match.
- Gauff has made a name for herself at the junior level, winning the 2018 French Open girls' singles and 2018 US Open girls' doubles titles. She also reached the final of the 2017 US Open girls' singles event, losing to fellow American Amanda Anisimova. In September, Gauff made her Grand Slam debut at the US Open, falling to Heather Watson in the first round of qualifying.
- Last July, Gauff—at 14 years, four months and three days old—became the youngest girls’ junior No. 1 since the ranking system was changed in 2004. She is the sixth American to achieve the feat.
- Playing what was widely expected to be her final junior match, Gauff won the Orange Bowl girls’ 18s singles title in December 2018, defeating China’s Qinwen Zheng, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, to become the youngest Orange Bowl Girls’ 18s singles champion in 15 years. The victory caps a year in which Gauff won the French Open girls’ singles title, achieved the junior world No. 1 ranking and went 31-5 in junior singles matches.
- Athleticism runs in the Gauff family. Her dad, Corey, played Atlantic Sun Conference collegiate basketball for the Georgia State Panthers and still holds the school record for most steals in a game, while her mom, Candi, was an elite 110-meter hurdler and, before that, an award-winning dancer and talented gymnast.
- Gauff, who has spent time training at Patrick Mouratoglou's academy in France, signed her first multi-year endorsement deal with clothing and footwear company New Balance at the end of 2018. She is reportedly in talks with racquet manufacturer Head, and she previously had a sponsorship deal with Nike.