After nearly three grueling hours, and in pulling off one of the most unbelievable comebacks Centre Court at Wimbledon had ever seen, Cori “Coco” Gauff had the grounds of the All England Club buzzing.
“She’s just 15!”
“This is her first time playing at a Grand Slam!”
In less than a week, the American teenager has gone from being a virtual unknown to near royalty at Wimbledon, with perhaps only Meghan Markle — an actual Duchess — generating the same amount of attention at tennis’ most hallowed grounds.
Coming back from match point at 5-2 in the second set of Friday’s third-round match, Gauff rallied to force — and win — a tiebreak against Polona Hercog, and in doing so, seemed to capture the hearts of everyone who had the opportunity to witness it.
It was an unlikely match for Centre Court — an unproven qualifier against an unseeded journey woman — but the two delivered one of the most entertaining matches in recent memory. Finally, after a tightly contested third set, Gauff clinched the match after Hercog hit long. Gauff dropped her racket, threw her hands in the air above her head and celebrated joyously. The near-capacity crowd roared in celebration, and it continued well after she had left the court.
There are star turns, and then there’s what Gauff has done at Wimbledon. She has made everyone Loco for Coco, and made even the stuffiest — and most traditional — of Wimbledon fans believers. She was immediately trending all over the world on Twitter for her heroics.
But while Gauff is obviously aware of her current Cinderella run, she seems blissfully unaware of the local and global adoration that has come with it. Or perhaps she just doesn’t care. In fact, she could not have seemed to be any more of a typical teenager following the win.
“I know this is off topic, but I wanted to say please stream ‘Erys’ by Jaden Smith,” she said with a wide grin as she walked into her news conference about an hour after her match. “His album dropped yesterday.”
“I love wearing hoodies. My mom, she banned me from buying hoodies for two months. Every week I was getting new hoodies sent to the house. I don’t know, I like wearing them because at home you can’t wear them because it’s so hot. I try to wear them as much as possible on the road.”
Even though it seemed most of the reporters in the room had no idea what on earth she was talking about, they ate up her every word, nodding eagerly as they appeared equal parts enamored and baffled by the teenage superstar.
Gauff will next face Simona Halep, the former world No. 1 and 2018 French Open champion, on Monday in the fourth round. Gauff didn’t even know who she would be playing when she started answering questions, but once she found out, she said she was familiar with Halep’s game because she has watched a lot of her matches. If she seemed intimidated by the task, she didn’t show it.
It might be easy for some to be skeptical of Gauff’s youthful indifference, but her parents, Corey, a former Georgia State basketball player, and her mom Candi, a former Florida State heptathlete, have tried to keep everything in perspective for her, and have everything remain as normal as possible.
Mouratoglou speaks highly of Coco’s composure
Patrick Mouratoglou says he’s seen a lot of growth in Coco’s ability to stay composed and handle the intense pressure of the moment at Wimbledon.
“If someone had told me this is where we would be when we got here ahead of qualifying two weeks ago, I would have said, ‘Get out of here,'” a still-stunned Corey said after the match. “I thought there was a small chance she would even get the wild card to play in qualifying, but we thought we would just put in the paperwork and see what happened. After that, we just took it one match at a time. But I really thought we would be back home by now, and would have celebrated the Fourth of July from our house.”
“She’s exceeded all of our expectations. Monday will be tough, but the one thing I can always count on, no matter the opponent, is that she’s not going to quit. She will keep fighting. I really just want her to go out there and enjoy the moment. There’s so much to celebrate. She’s 15, playing on Centre Court against senior players. Just enjoy it. Don’t be stressed out. Just be happy you have a chance to go out there and see how well you can play.”
The rest, as they say, is just icing on the cake. Those who know Gauff and have been following her game and her rise at the junior level are not surprised about her success. It’s significantly earlier than expected — Have you heard she’s 15? — but they believe she’s destined for greatness.
Patrick Mouratoglou knew Gauff was special from the first time he met her, when she came to Mouratoglou Academy in France as a 10-year-old hoping to secure a spot to train with him. Serena Williams’ longtime coach recognized Gauff’s championship mentality during some of his earliest practices with her. What he recognized then that set her apart from her peers was exactly what landed her a spot in the second week at Wimbledon.
“When they’re in trouble, when they’re tired, when they’re down, when they’re losing, they’re able to trigger something and have a different reaction because of who they are — their personalities. So I’m looking for those personalities when I chose who I want to work with, and that’s what I felt when I met her.”
It’s that same personality that has endeared her to so many during this magical week. Whether she’s battling against a far more experienced player, such as Hercog or Venus Williams, her hero and first-round opponent; or talking about her love for prank videos on YouTube; or her hopes for her mom’s court antics to go viral, she has charmed even the most hardened of sports fans.
It has made for a surreal experience for her family, as they have continued to attract more and more attention as they walk the grounds. But they are thrilled — if not a little overwhelmed — for the support.
As the betting odds for Gauff to win the title at Wimbledon continue to improve as the expectations continue to skyrocket, Gauff herself is really just hoping the attention will result in concert tickets.
“The most unexpected message I received — well, it wasn’t really a message,” Gauff said about her newfound fame. “Ms. Tina Knowles-Lawson, Beyonce’s mom, posted about me on Instagram. I was, like, screaming.
“I hope Beyonce saw that. I hope [Tina] told her daughter about me because I would love to go to a concert.”