Coco Gauff: Teenage Tennis Star And Already Spokeswoman For A Generation

Gauff starts her Wimbledon campaign against Romania’s Elena-Gabriela Ruse on Tuesday
16:30, 26 Jun 2022

As if being one of the best young tennis players in the world striving to win tournaments and establish a legacy on court wasn’t enough, the hugely impressive teenager Coco Gauff is increasingly sounding like a spokeswoman for her generation with her mature and principled public utterances on everything from gun violence, through racial injustice and then this week reproductive rights after the reversal of the Roe v Wade decision in the USA’s Supreme Court caused such outrage. 

Wimbledon fell in love with American Gauff since she came through qualifying three years ago aged 15 years and three months to become the youngest player ever to feature in the main women’s draw via qualifying in the Open era – and she hammered home the message by beating five-time champion Venus Williams on her debut. 

Gauff, now 18, was a breath of fresh air with boundless energy and enthusiasm, and even then a maturity beyond her tender years. Press conferences that some find so daunting and confrontational saw hard-bitten journalists eating out of the player’s hands.

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There were further wins over Magdalena Rybarikova and Polona Hercog that year, before defeat to Romania’s Simona Halep who went on to win the title that year. No disgrace there. And Gauff has continued her rapid climb up the rankings, currently standing at No12 having already won two WTA singles and four doubles titles – and reached a first slam final in Paris this year, losing to Iga Swiatek. 

But though Gauff starts third favourite for the singles title behind only Swiatek and Ons Jabeur, life is about a lot more than tennis for Gauff. Serena Williams has probably done more than any woman player bar Billie Jean King addressing women’s equality and a plethora of human rights issues. But on the recent decision that left so many women distraught in the US and worldwide, it was the youngster that idolised her who picked up the baton. 

Serena Williams
Serena Williams

And make no mistake, it was a brave move. In today’s social media world and especially in a nation as divided and polarised as the US, there can be 95 percent who agree with a particular view. But the five percent against are capable of vicious trolling and a stack of vile abuse. 

There was an initial post from Gauff on Twitter reading: “Incredibly disappointed by the decision made. The sad part is this will not stop abortions from happening…this will only increase illegal and unsafe abortions. It is a very sad day for our country and I cannot believe that once again history is repeating itself.” 

Expanding on her views at Wimbledon, Gauff - who starts her campaign against Romania’s Elena-Gabriela Ruse - said: “I put a tweet out, I'm obviously disappointed about the decision made. Really for me, obviously I feel bad for future women and women now, but I also feel bad for those who protested for this, I don't even know how many years ago - but protested for this, and are alive to see that decision be reversed. 

“I just think that history is repeating itself. I feel like, I mean, at least from my reading, researching, because I do like history, I just feel like just having this decision reversed…I feel like we're almost going backwards. 

“Not only does this decision kind of mark regarding reproductive rights, I feel like it also kind of puts a lead-way into maybe reversing other things that we worked for - I wouldn't say me personally, but people in the past worked so hard to reverse. 

“But I still want to encourage people to use their voice and not feel too discouraged about this because we can definitely make a change, and hopefully change will happen. 

“Exressing views and still staying focused…I just feel like my whole life I've always balanced that kind of aspect. I mean, obviously now I have a much bigger platform than I did when I was younger, but it was still issues that I was talking about. I would say my family just grew up and raised me like that. 

“Regarding balancing. I mean, I've always done a pretty good job of separating the world from tennis when I'm on the court, because on the court, it's like my escape from everything. During the tournament, I probably will shut the phone off and maybe not see so much. 

“The same thing happened in the French Open where I was talking about gun violence. So I definitely don't think it affects my performance. I feel like it fuels me more because I know the more I win, the later I get into tournaments, the more people are watching, the more people that can hear my message. I feel like I use that almost as fuel to do better.” 

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