The 16-year-old black tennis star set to rule the tennis world
On 1 July, 2019, a 15-year-old black American stepped out on Court One to face her idol Venus Williams at Wimbledon.
Those who follow the stats might have noticed Gauff had become the youngest player to qualify for the main Wimbledon draw since the Open era began in 1968. Others were asking the press office whether to pronounce her name ‘Gawf’ or ‘Goff’ – it’s the latter – and no matter how they were pronouncing her surname, they were still calling the teenager by her given name, Cori.
She became the hot ticket as she progressed through the rounds, saving two match points against Polona Hercog to reach the last 16. There she lost to eventual champion Simona Halep, leaving to a standing ovation from a crowd who had been well and truly charmed.
Gauff made a lasting impression, not only with the pundits who predicted a trophy-laden future, but also with the public who saw a humble teenager who was “thankful for the experience” and planned to merely buy a new hoodie with her £176,000 prize money.
“I went from probably 30,000 followers [on social media] to 500,000 overnight, and definitely got a lot of recognition from really famous people all around the world,” she tells BBC Sport.
“It’s something I’m still not used to but definitely wasn’t used to then.”
Yet she handled the media spotlight like an old hand, unfazed by her ‘promotion’ to the biggest news conference room, usually reserved for the top names, and not intimidated by her billing on the show courts or the players she faced.
At least that’s what it looked like from outside. She tells it slightly differently.
“I was really nervous – don’t get me wrong – I didn’t look nervous but I was nervous inside,” she says of the victory over Williams.
“My parents always taught me to be calm in those moments and remember that pressure is a privilege. That’s what I remembered during those moments.”
Her poise, eloquence and maturity beyond her years have won many admirers. And you really don’t need to look too far to see where she has got it from.