Wimbledon 2019 had already been blessed with the presence of Queensland’s new World No 1 Ashleigh Barty, a young woman who not only plays sublime tennis but is humble and polite to boot.
Then along comes another young woman deserving of our admiration and support because of both her tennis skills and demeanor.
I’m talking about 15-year-old American tennis player Cori “Coco” Gauff who burst from our TV screens when she stunned her idol Venus Williams in the first round 6-4 6-4.
Gauff then showed defeating Williams was no flash in the pan as she outclassed Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3, 6-3 to reach the third round.
She took charge of the match by breaking the 139th-ranked Slovakian’s serve to love in the sixth game and was in control thereafter.
Like Barty, Gauff has the skills (not quite to the Australians level yet) but more importantly, she has Barty’s personal qualities. She is humble and polite, qualities sadly missing from a few others currently playing at the All England Club.
Gauff told the BBC that she cried after defeating Williams.
“I don’t really know how to feel, this is the first time I’ve cried after a match, after winning,” she said.
“I never thought this would happen. I’m living my dream right now, not many people get to say that.”
Emotions were mixed, her mother told CNN.
“Of course, when you’re a competitor, when you go out there, your job is to win,” Candi Gauff said.
“But at the same time, you’re looking at a person (in Venus Williams) who paved the way for young black girls, or young girls in general, to play the sport.
“And so (Coco) was grateful and humble at the opportunity to play one of her idols. So I think she was very grateful, but also ecstatic that she won.”
She is clearly a “grounded” young woman.
The Florida teen had to win some qualifying matches just to get there. And before she could even do that, she had to take a late-night school test.
A science test hours before she’d wake up to play one of the three qualifying matches she’d have to win at Roehampton just to make the main tournament at iconic Wimbledon.
She says only one of her teachers even knew she played tennis. The rest will know now.
“I ended up getting a B on the exam, which was pretty good, considering I took it at 11 at night and I have to wake up the next day for a match,” Gauff told CNN’s Christina Macfarlane on Saturday, two days before she’d play Williams.
“After my science test, I guess some of my teachers saw (an) interview. Before that … only one teacher knew I play tennis, and I don’t think they knew I was pro.
“And now all of them except one know…. They’re all cheering me on.”
Her rise hasn’t come out of nowhere — she was one of the world’s most highly regarded junior tennis players. But the story about her teachers and her quiz shows just how fresh her transition to the pro life is.
Her mother, Candi told CNN’s “New Day” on Tuesday that the goal until now has been to give her as normal a life as possible.
“We try to compartmentalize, and keeping school and her tennis life separate was important to us,” she said.
Gauff has risen quickly
Having beaten Williams, she also is the youngest player to win a singles match at Wimbledon since Jennifer Capriati in 1991.
She’s been raising her profile in recent years, making a US Open junior final in 2017, and then winning the French Open girl’s championship last year.
This year, she became the youngest woman to win a grand slam qualifying match in the French Open.
Her current 313th WTA singles ranking has climbed sharply from 874 eight months ago.
“I just still can’t believe she is 15,” American great John McEnroe said in his summary for the BBC.
But even Gauff herself told reporters after the match she was the real deal: “You can kind of fake it till you make it. But I’m not faking it, at least right now.”
She will next face Slovenian Polona Hercog, who beat another former American prodigy Madison Keys.
By Doris Nettlefold
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