Coco Gauff says she was "crazy" to put so much pressure on herself at the start of her career but the realisation that fans support her regardless of success leaves her close to tears.
Gauff said her emergence as a precocious 15-year-old when she beat Venus Williams at Wimbledon in 2019 blurred her own expectations. She told the Telegraph that she “expected to win” the US Open that followed just months later, but was on the end of a heavy defeat to Naomi Osaka instead in the third round.
The now 18-year-old – selected to train with Patrick Mouratoglou aged 10 - has been earmarked for greatness since childhood, but on reflection, she was applying too much pressure.
How to live stream and watch Wimbledon on TV
“I would say, ‘you’re crazy, you’re putting so much pressure on yourself'," she said of advice she would give to her younger self.
“She was crazy.”
The American added that she has been touched by the level of support she has received – whether she wins or loses. And experience, it seems, has taught the teenager that popularity or support is not intrinsically linked to success.
“People come up to me and say they support me regardless of whether I win or lose, and it almost brings me to tears,” she said.
“Because when I was younger, even 15 or 16, I would think that people would only like me if I won.”
Gauff’s maturity extends beyond the court, and after beating Martina Trevisan 6-3 6-1 to progress to a first Grand Slam final at the French Open, she wrote a message on the camera pleading for an end to gun violence in the United States.
'Iga was just too good today' - Gauff on Swiatek winning French Open final
She also gave a moving speech at a Black Lives Matter protest in Delray Beach, south Florida in 2020 aged 16, and she adds the issues of racism and gun violence can be resolved, regardless of an individual’s politics.
“Those are issues that, regardless of politics you believe in, can definitely be resolved,” Gauff said.
“I think for me it’s important to talk about that. If I don’t, I’m doing a disservice to my family, because my family – and my grandmother especially – have pretty much been activists, so I’d feel like I’m doing a disservice to the people that came before me, my ancestors.”
Gauff’s maturity is in no small part due to the guidance of her parents, who ensure she takes time away from the game.
- Relentless Swiatek surges past Gauff to win second French Open title
- 'I'm so proud of you' - Obama congratulates Gauff for reaching French Open final
- Gauff hopes her 'end gun violence' message 'gets into the heads of people in office'
“We’ve heard some horror stories in tennis regarding tennis dads,” she added.
“I’m so thankful to my dad. Between him and my mum, he’s always the one pulling me out of tennis, telling me to go do something else if I’ve only been doing tennis for a few days.”
While tennis is not her sole focus – she recently graduated high school – her career trajectory continues on an upward curve alongside an emerging crop of next generation stars.
“It’s definitely a transition happening,” she said.
“It’s pretty cool. Emma and Iga I didn’t know as well during juniors, but we always played some of the same tournaments though and played ITFs at the same time. To see everyone you’ve known for a long time doing well, it’s cool.
"I always root for Iga, Emma or Leylah [Fernandez] when I’m not playing them.”
She is second-favourite behind Swiatek for Wimbledon - a tournament, she said, is like no other.
“Other tournaments play into pop culture and urban areas, but there you feel like you’re the Queen.”
- - -
Watch daily highlights from Wimbledon at 10pm on Eurosport 2 and discovery+ from June 27, as well as the two singles finals live on July 9 and 10.
‘Unlike any other’ – Kyrgios snapped up by Osaka’s Evolve agency
'She's a legend, I'm really nervous' - Jabeur on being Serena's doubles partner
Share this article