I made the trip down to Roehampton in June, for the second round of qualies at Wimbledon with my girlfriend. I had heard a lot about Coco Gauff but not seen much game time. The reputation and profile were already massive after winning the French Open Juniors in 2018 at just 14 years of age. The same year she was Junior world number one. In March this year, she has also won a round in Miami, beating her pal Catherine Mcnally. There was a fair bit to live up to. Part of being a tennis geek is getting down to these events and forming an opinion. She didn’t disappoint!
In the opening round, she had taken out the top-seeded Aliona Bolsova, who had really impressed me on her way to the third round at Roland Garros. She faced Valentyna Ivakhnenko in the second round. She hit the Russian off the court and it was as comfortable as the 6/2 6/3 scoreline suggests. My girlfriend and I were massively impressed for what it is worth. It wasn’t just about the quality of the performance though, which was class. There was a strong, gritty mentality and a natural aura about her. The size of the crowd that gathered by Court 10 at Roehampton was a sign that the cat was out of the bag. Though that will be no real surprise to most tennis fans.
I did say to my partner that this is without a doubt a picture worth getting. Not only as we will be fans but she will be a superstar! What was even more likeable was how down to earth she was. We both had our picture taken and she even had time to compliment me on my Lil Wayne t-shirt. I’m a big fan of that kind of behaviour, but she was right mind, it is a boss bit of clothing!!! She had time for the mass queue of fans who also wanted pictures and autographs and she obliged with all requests. You could see there was a real level-headedness and maturity about her. It is also very clear to me that Coco’s parents Corey and Candi deserve a lot of credit for the way they have raised their daughter. Both come across very chilled and they play such a big role and you can see how close the relationship is. The proof is in the pudding.
I have mentioned before that after this I spoke to one of my pals, who loves his tennis. I was telling him how impressed we had both been by Coco at Roehampton and he asked me who I would compare her to? It wasn’t something I had prepared but my response was “Venus Williams but I think she would beat her if she is playing like that”. My pal obviously asked me if I was being serious and I said yes! Anyone who knows me knows my adoration for the Williams sisters, so he knew not to take it too lightly. Though I’m not sure he was that convinced at that moment in time. From here on though, she dropped two games in the final round of qualies against Greet Minnen and then drew the legendary Venus in the first round at Wimbledon. The rest, as they say, is history.
After making what can only be described as a fairy tale fourth round at SW19, I was lucky enough to see her play at the US Open against Timea Babos this year. As you would expect the atmosphere was electric in NYC and the Louis Armstrong was well up for it. Once again here she showed calmness and intelligence under pressure to get the win. She finished with another quality on-court interview which endears her to the public. The big game mentality is clearly there though and you better not forget it. She has since claimed a first tour title in Linz, where she beat former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the final.
It is clear that she will be globally supported, Wimbledon was an early insight to that. Crowds love Coco and that is all down to her.
Andy Del Potro