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Wimbledon: Cori Gauff is tennis' next big thing

Marko Langer
July 3, 2019

Her name is Cori. Her nickname is Coco. Her goal is to be the best women's tennis player in the world. Welcome to the world of Cori Gauff, who is suddenly a fan favorite at Wimbledon.

Tennis Spielerin Cori Gauff USA
Image: Reuters/T. O'Brien

The press officer at the All England Lawn Tennis Club enjoyed introducing Cori Gauff. The 15-year-old is wearing a hat with a Wimbledon logo and a t-shirt from her outfitter with the words "Fun Guy" written on it.

Funny? Anyone who thinks that's all Gauff, nicknamed Coco, is about has misunderstood at least two elements of the hype surrounding her. Firstly, this young woman from Florida has arrived at Wimbledon with an array of tennis skills. Secondly, Gauff is already aware of her own potential.

About 'Fun Guy'

First thing's first. Last week, tournament organizers at Wimbledon celebrated the fact that Gauff was the youngest qualifier to make the main tournament. Then came the draw and Gauff found herself drawn against 39-year-old Venus Williams, who won her first tournament before Gauff was even born. Gauff walked onto court listening to Miss Mulatto, a rapper from Ohio, and then, in a turn of events not surprising to everyone, the teenager knocked the veteran right out of the tournament. About that "fun guy" label...

So there she sits in the press room, saying things that other young talents might not get away with. Things like how she came to this tournament to win it and that she soon believes she will be the best women's player in the world. Her father told her that when she was eight.

Cori's father (sitting, left) stays calm while her mother applauds.
Cori's father (sitting, left) stays calm while her mother applauds.Image: Apicture-alliance/AP/T. Ireland

An egomaniac? No one in London was thinking that because Gauff speaks softly, and with polished words that don't make her sound smug. Having beaten her idol Venus, she broke down in tears. "It's the first time I've cried after a match that I've won," Gauff said after the 6-4, 6-4 victory against a woman 24 years her senior. Gauff's combination of serenity and emotion are not the only reason she's considered the next big thing in the tennis world.

Remarkably, Roger Federer plays a role in all this. When asked about the match between Williams and Gauff, it was clear how much the Swiss is interested in the teenager. "She works hard, is a good person and hopefully she'll play on one of the big courts at Wimbledon," Federer said. The message was received: Gauff played on the almost sold-out Court 1.

A Swiss fan

That Federer is a fan of the Atlanta-born talent is also apparent in the way his agency "Team 8" have reportedly have taken over Gauff's marketing. This appears a decision made with a nod towards Gauff's playing quality: Gauff is not just a hard hitter, as many young talents in women's tennis are. She is also a player with an extremely good, and therefore also extremely uncomfortable, forehand top spin. As she finishes striking the ball, her racket almost lands in her hair.

Cori Gauff unleashes her forehand top spin that Venus Williams couldn't stop
Cori Gauff unleashes her forehand top spin that Venus Williams couldn't stopImage: picture-alliance/empics/M. Egerton

Bille Jean King, another legend of the sport, praised her after her win while Serena Williams described her as a "cool girl". Gauff is a real prospect in women's tennis, and the sport has been waiting a while for a rising star, with many other young players having failed to deliver on their talent.

At the age of seven, Gauff and her family moved from Atlanta to Delray Beach in Florida to find better training conditions. Gauff's father, Corry, trained his daughter while mother Candy watched from the sidelines. Tennis was the driving force of the Gauff family, although Cori also played basketball and did athletics until just two years ago. Speaking to journalists at Wimbledon, Cori confirmed that during her qualifying rounds for Wimbledon she finished an online exam, where she scored a B. Gauff joked that for her first round match against Williams her effort had merited an A.

At the moment, Gauff is the 313th best player in the world. After these heady days in London, that will change.

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