Zach Thompson breaks down Coco Gauff’s rise as one of the brightest young stars in women’s tennis.
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Coco Gauff continues to establish herself as a rising superstar in the world of Women’s Tennis. She is already setting multiple records and appears to be well on her way to successfully following in the footsteps of her childhood hero, Serena Williams. While she has a long way to go to match Serena’s achievements, Gauff is on an amazing trajectory despite setbacks due to the delay in play for the COVID-19 pandemic. The 18-year-old has already displayed many of the necessary tools to ascend into the elite levels of tennis history. You can get in on owning a piece of unique Gauff memorabilia with an exciting new NFT offering from Autograph and DraftKings.
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Gauff grew up in Atlanta, where she started playing tennis at the age of four after watching Williams win the Australian Open. She played track and basketball as well but began to focus on tennis since she enjoyed the fact that it was an individual sport. She won the “Little Mo” eight-and-under nationals at the age of eight and has since been locked in on tennis as her main sport. Like Williams, Gauff’s father was her primary coach in her early years, and she also worked with Williams’ long-time coach Patrick Mouratoglou, at the Mouratoglou Academy on the outskirts of Nice, France. She continued to grow and refine her game, notably becoming the youngest winner of the 12-and-under USTA Clay Court National at age 10 years and 3 months.
She rose to the top of the world rankings as a Junior player while on the ITF Junior Circuit. In 2017, Coco made her junior Grand Slam debut at the US Open and made it all the way to the Finals without dropping a set before finishing runner-up to Amanda Anisimova. She became the youngest girls’ singles finalist in US Open history. At the French Open in 2018, Gauff won her first career junior Grand Slam tournament title, becoming the fifth-youngest girls’ singles champion in French Open history.
In May of 2018, Gauff won her first professional match just two months after turning 14, when players are allowed to play a limited schedule on the ITF Women’s Circuit. After losing in qualifying at the 2018 US Open, she started 2019 with a great run of success that included reaching the finals in both singles and doubles at the $25K level in Surprise, AZ. She finished runner-up in singles but claimed her first WTA title in doubles alongside Paige Hourigan. She continued her success by winning her way into the main draw at the 2019 Wimbledon Championships, becoming the youngest player in the tournament’s history to qualify for the main draw at just 15 years and 3 months. She wasn’t content with just getting into the draw, though, upsetting Venus Williams in straight sets to announce her arrival on the scene. She won two more matches and received so much attention that her third-round match was moved to Centre Court. Her run ultimately ended with a loss to eventual champion Simona Halep.
At the 2019 US Open, Gauff wildcarded into the main draw in both singles and doubles and claimed two more singles matches with three-set wins before falling to Naomi Osaka. Later that season, she become the youngest WTA player to win a singles title since 2004 when she claimed the Linz Open, which included an upset of top-seeded Kiki Bertens in the quarterfinals, which was the first top ten victory of her career. That win and strong showings throughout the season vaulted her into the top 100 in both the WTA singles and doubles rankings.
In 2020, Gauff reached the fourth round of the Australian Open, highlighted by wins over Venus Williams and Naomi Osaka. Her meteoric rise was put on hold, though, by the COVID-19 pause. When play resumed, Gauff didn’t make any extremely deep runs in tournaments but had good enough results throughout the year to improve her rating from No. 67 at the start of 2020 to No. 48 at the start of 2021.
Gauff continued to build momentum in 2021, making a run to the semifinals at the Adelaide International in February after a second-round loss at the Australian Open. She also reached the semifinals at the Italian Open before claiming both a singles and doubles win at the Emilia-Romagna Open in Parma. That win moved her into the top 25, making her the youngest American woman to move into the top 25 since Serena Williams, nearly 23 years earlier.
Later that year, Gauff made her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the French Open, becoming the youngest American to reach a quarterfinal at Roland Garros since Jennifer Capriati in 1993 and the youngest American to reach the quarterfinals of any Grand Slam since Venus Williams reached the 1997 US Open. She fell in straight sets, though, to eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova. She added another strong showing at Wimbledon, advancing to the fourth round for the second straight year and also advancing to the third round in doubles. At the U.S. Open, she and her doubles partner, Caty McNally, made it to the Finals, coming up just short of her first Grand Slam win. In 2021, she was also selected to represent the U.S.A. at the delayed Olympics, but she was forced to withdraw after testing positive for COVID-19.
In 2022, Gauff started the year with a win at the Qatar Open with doubles partner, Jessica Pegula, moving her into the top 10 in doubles rankings. She then became the youngest Grand Slam finalist in women’s tennis since Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004 and the youngest American woman to reach a major final since a 17-year-old Serena Williams at the 1999 US Open by making the Finals at the French Open as an 18-year-old. She lost in straight sets to world No. 1 Iga Swiatek in straight sets, but rose to a career-best ranking of No. 13 in the world. She wasn’t done at the French Open, though, also reaching the Finals with Pegula in doubles but finishing runner-up. That showing moved her to a career-best No. 5 in the world rankings for doubles.
Throughout her rise to the top of the tennis world, Gauff has been amazingly poised beyond her years. She says she always feels pressure to succeed, but during her matches, she oozes a sense of confidence and composure. She has also been a voice for important causes, including speaking out against mass shootings recently by writing, “Peace. End gun violence.’’ on a courtside TV camera. She is consistently honest and eloquent in her post-match remarks and has a calm demeanor that is a great example for other young stars to follow.
Gauff will continue her quest for her first Grand Slam win at Wimbledon, where she has a great career track record. You can find all the details on these unique NFTs in the DraftKings Marketplace, and take advantage of Gauff’s continued rise to stardom as the future of women’s tennis.