Tennis: 10 things to know about Venus' teen conqueror Cori Gauff

Cori Gauff (pictured) was the talk of the town on Monday (July 1) after beating her idol and five-time champion Venus Williams.
Cori Gauff (pictured) was the talk of the town on Monday (July 1) after beating her idol and five-time champion Venus Williams.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS, AFP, WASHINGTON POST, NEW YORK TIMES) - When American high school student Cori Gauff began the 2019 season ranked 875th in the world, not many would have given her a second glance let alone predicted that six months later she would set Wimbledon alight.

The 15-year-old, who used to think "it's weird for people to take pictures of me" had better get used to the spotlight since she was the talk of the town on Monday (July 1) after beating her idol and five-time champion Venus Williams in the first round.

Not satisfied with pulling off one of the all-time shocks in Wimbledon history, Gauff, who is known as Coco, wasted little time in declaring her long-term goals.

"I want to be the greatest," she said, echoing the kind of words that became synonymous with boxing icon Muhammad Ali. "I wasn't surprised that I won. My dad told me that I could do this when I was eight. My goal is to win it (Wimbledon)."

Here are 10 things you need to know about this bold teenager:

1. She is the youngest player in the singles draw. At world No. 313, she needed a wildcard to play in qualifying.

2. She has long been considered one of the world's most promising players and her tennis career accelerated when she was eight years old after her family moved from Atlanta to Delray Beach, Florida, where she still lives.

 

3. She trains regularly at Patrick Mouratoglou's tennis academy in France. Mouratoglou is Serena Williams' long-time coach.

4. Both her parents were athletes. Her father Corey is a former basketball point guard at Georgia State University. He is also her coach. Her mother Candi competed in track and field at Florida State University.

5. Gauff was the youngest US Open junior finalist in history in 2017, losing at age 13 to Amanda Anisimova, another American tennis prodigy.

6. Gauff won the French Open junior title last year at age 14, becoming the second youngest girls' champion at Roland Garros after Martina Hingis.

7. Gauff had never played at the senior level in a Grand Slam event prior to this week. She only advanced to Monday's match by advancing through qualifying in London last week, a run that included straight-set wins over top-seeded Aliona Bolsova and No. 19 seed Greet Minnen. That made her the youngest player to advance to Wimbledon's main draw via qualifying.

8. Still at school, she completed her exams only last week, even taking a science test during her run through the qualifiers.

9. Venus Williams and, above all, her younger sister Serena have been Gauff's role models.

10. Off the court, Gauff's idols are Rihanna and Beyonce.

What the greats say about her

- "She has been raised for greatness and this is just the beginning," said Tracy Austin, herself an American teen prodigy who was just 14 when she first played at Wimbledon.

- "If she isn't No. 1 in the world by the time she is 20, I would be absolutely shocked. It was too bad for Venus that she had to play her," said seven-time Grand Slam champion John McEnroe.