KOKOnista Of The Day: Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff Is The Future Of Tennis

Cori “Coco” Gauff  is an American tennis player. She is the youngest player ranked in the top 100 by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and has a career-high ranking of world No. 23 in singles, and No. 42 in doubles.

Cori Gauff was born on March 13, 2004, to Candi (née Odom) and Corey Gauff, both of whom are from Delray Beach, Florida. She has two younger brothers, Codey who is four years younger and Cameron who is nine years younger. Her father played college basketball at Georgia State University and later worked as a health care executive, while her mother was a track and field athlete at Florida State University and worked as an educator. Gauff grew up in Atlanta, and became interested in tennis at the age of four after watching Serena Williams win the 2009 Australian Open on television. Her parents encouraged her to try many sports, including basketball and track. She began playing tennis at age six and decided she wanted to pursue it as a career because it was an individual sport and because of her early success in winning the “Little Mo” eight-and-under nationals at the age of eight. Gauff recalled, “I wasn’t much of a team person. I loved tennis. I was so-so about it in the beginning because when I was younger I didn’t want to practice at all. I just wanted to play with my friends. When I turned eight, that was when I played ‘Little Mo’ and after that I decided to do that for the rest of my life.”
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When Gauff was seven, her family moved back to Delray Beach so that she would have better training opportunities. They initially lived with her mother’s parents before getting their own house. While in Florida, she worked with Gerard Loglo at the New Generation Tennis Academy starting from age eight. Gauff’s parents gave up their careers to focus on training their daughter. Her father later became her primary coach while her mother oversaw her homeschooling. Her father had limited experience playing tennis growing up. At age ten, Gauff began to train at the Mouratoglou Academy in France run by Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams’s longtime coach. Mouratoglou commented, “I’ll always remember the first time I saw Coco. She came over to the Mouratoglou Academy in 2014 to try out and she impressed me with her determination, athleticism and fighting spirit… When she looks at you and tells you she will be number one, you can only believe it.” He helped sponsor Gauff through his Champ’Seed foundation, which he created to provide funding for talented juniors who did not have the financial resources to afford high-level training.

Gauff continued to have success – winning the USTA Clay Court National 12-and-under title at age 10 years and 3 months – to become the youngest champion in the tournament’s history.Born to parents with NCAA Division I collegiate backgrounds in basketball and track and field, Gauff experimented with a variety of sports as a child. She chose tennis, inspired by the Williams sisters and preferring an individual sport.

Gauff had success as a junior, earning a sponsorship to train at Patrick Mouratoglou’s academy in France. She began playing on the ITF Junior Circuit at 13 and finished runner-up at the junior 2017 US Open in just her fourth ITF event, the youngest finalist in the tournament’s history. She became the No. 1 junior in the world after winning the junior Grand Slam singles title over McNally at the 2018 French Open. She also won a junior Grand Slam doubles title at the 2018 US Open, this time partnering with McNally.

Gauff made her WTA Tour debut in March 2019 at the Miami Open and won her opening match. She received a wildcard into the qualifying draw at the 2019 Wimbledon Championships where she became the youngest player in the tournament’s history to qualify for the main draw. She reached the fourth round, and each of her matches was the most-watched of the day in the United States.

Coco Gauff in action against Timea Babos at the 2019 US Open.

Gauff won her first WTA singles title at the 2019 Linz Open at age 15, making her the youngest singles title-holder on the WTA Tour since 2004. She won three WTA doubles titles with Caty McNally. Gauff rose to prominence with a win over Venus Williams in the opening round at Wimbledon 2019.


Photo Credit: Getty

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