Coco Gauff – The 15-year-old tennis wunderkind

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Earlier this month, the US Open once again saw success for up-and-coming tennis sensation Coco Gauff. The 15-year-old is one of the brightest young American talents since 16-year old Tracy Austin took the sport by storm in 1978.

Despite her defeat in the third round to No. 1 seed Naomi Osaka, Gauff’s rise to stardom is still one of the most remarkable tennis stories of the summer.

The young American first burst onto the tennis scene back in July when, after a clean sweep of wins in the Wimbledon qualifying draw, she defeated former champion Venus Williams in her first ever grand-slam encounter.

Her success continued with further victories over Magdalena Rybarikova and world No. 60 Polona Hercog, though she lost to the eventual champion, Simona Halep, in the fourth round.

After this remarkable Wimbledon debut, Gauff not only saw her world ranking jump to a career high of 141 but she also became the youngest player in the tournament’s history to qualify for the main draw. 

Gauff, a former junior world No. 1, made her potential clear in 2018 by winning two grand slam titles on the junior circuit, one at the French Open and a second back in the United States.

In 2019, Gauff stepped up to compete on the women’s professional circuit early, aged just 14, in a move that is proving more and more vital in achieving big on the women’s tour. Naomi Osaka also made the leap onto the senior tour at a young age and reached World No. 1 earlier this year, aged just 21.

Despite only being in the early stages of her professional career, Coco has set herself up for further success. She has an established team supporting her, including both parents who competed as Division 1 athletes. Gauff has also already secured some key sponsorship deals, most notably from Head Tennis and New Balance.

She first picked up a tennis racket after watching Serena Williams win the US Open title in 2009 and it’s certainly possible that she will follow in Williams’ footsteps. She has pursued a similar path in her tennis development to that of the Williams’ sisters, too, and has even been trained by Serena Williams’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou at his academy in France.

Serena Williams has publicly supported the young American, describing her encounter with Naomi Osaka as “the future of women’s tennis” – high praise from the 23-time grand slam winner. 

Until Gauff turns 16, however, she is restricted by the professional tennis age eligibility rule to competing in a maximum of ten tournaments per year on the women’s circuit. Therefore, she has decided not to compete for the remainder of the season and instead focus on improving her game. 

In this respect, her serve proved to be an area of weakness in her match against Osaka.  She will need to up her first and second serve percentages if she is to maintain her success and grow in stature.

The 2020 season will be crucial for Gauff and we will see if this teenager really can make the tennis breakthrough that she has set herself up for. Especially with Serena in her corner, Coco Gauff is one to watch.

Image by Carine06 via Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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