Coco Gauff garnered international attention earlier this month when she beat Venus Williams in the first round of the main draw at the Wimbledon in straight sets (6-3, 6-3). For the 15-year old, it was her first Grand Slam appearance as the youngest player to qualify for Wimbledon in the open era.
Gauff grew up in Atlanta and is the child of Corey, who played basketball for Georgia State, and Candi, who was on Florida State’s track and field team.
At the All England Club, she advanced to the round of 16 where Simona Halep eliminated the young star in straight sets.
Gauff was 10 years old when Martin Blackman, the general manager of USTA player development, watched her play. She was playing in team event with girls who were 12.
“Even then she was the best player on the team,” Blackman told The Atlanta Journal Constitution at the BB&T Atlanta Open.
The first-round match against Williams, a five-time Wimbledon and 10-time major champion, was symbolic, an arc of history in a passing of the torch.
Growing up in Atlanta, Gauff looked up to sisters Venus and Serena Williams, who have ushered in a new era of tennis, especially for young women of color – like Gauff.
“To see Coco step on the court with Venus at 15 — you’re almost looking at the present and the future,” Blackman said. “That wasn’t lost on me, or many others.”
For young tennis players who achieve huge success early, long-term development can slip away as players chase stardom over the daily grind of development. Blackman isn’t worried about that fate for Guaff, who’s maturity and poise — like her skill on the court — far outranks her age.
And like the Williams sisters, Blackman believes Gauff will continue the work of her predecessors.
“I think she can win at all four slams,” Blackman said. She’s going to be a champion on and off the court. She’s got great character, great values. She’s just super poised. She’s going to be an ambassador that draws thousands of young girls and boys into this sport.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.