Tennis

Coco Gauff: Teen tennis sensation is on a mission to inspire

Coco Gauff: Teen tennis sensation is on a mission to inspire

“I just remember going out on the pitch blasting music with my head down because I didn’t want to look at the crowd,” Gauff told CNN’s Becky Anderson in Dubai.

“It was such a long walk from the locker room. It was like 15 minutes,” she recalled. “Then they have all the walls of champions, and obviously I’ve seen Venus there so many times. I was like, ‘Oh my God, she lifted that trophy so many times. And here I am about to continue against his.'”

What happened next was fantasy, as the teenager swept past her veteran rival in straight sets. Stone-faced, almost in disbelief, Gauff walked slowly towards a beaming Williams, who warmly congratulated her on the other side of the net as the crowd erupted in wild applause.

Elegant dominance

Nearly three years later, Gauff is still finding inspiration from Venus and her sister Serena.

“I draw inspiration from both,” she says. “And I would say, I don’t know, I just think not only their games, but the way they performed off the pitch is something that I admire.”

Gauff also recognizes the importance of having two black role models in a sport that has traditionally lacked diversity. “For me, there’s not a lot of representation of people who look like me in the sport, so for me as a young girl, just seeing them dominate and do it with such elegance somehow inspired.”

Venus has also become something of a Coco Gauff fan. “I had conversations with them, like Venus, I have to play doubles with [her]. It was just something I never thought would happen. And she always supports me.

“I remember she was posting stories on Instagram saying people were asking her questions like, ‘Who is she supporting for?’ and she was like, ‘Serena,’ and then she was like, me too, and I thought that that was really cool because I never thought that would happen.

“I mean, when I was a kid, I never thought I’d play with one of them, let alone play doubles with one of them!”

Gauff plays a backhand in her Australian Open first round singles match in January 2022.

Model

Although she will only turn 18 in March, Gauff is already following her own path as a role model for others. She spoke out during the protests following the killing of George Floyd and believes in using her position to inspire change.

“For me, I just feel like it’s not so much a responsibility, I feel like it’s just me, and it’s like my identity,” she told Anderson.

“I want to stand up for people who look like me and feel like they don’t have a voice. And I’m lucky that some people in the world care about what I have to say. I try so to make sure that I say it and say it in a correct way, or in a way that people understand.”

She says she is keen to set an example for her two younger brothers. “I would say I’m just trying to stick to what I want my brothers to be, [and be] a model for my brothers.”

“Your mindset can change everything in your life”

The Atlanta-born star also draws inspiration closer to home. Her grandmother was a cancer survivor, and Gauff says watching that battle and the positive mindset her grandmother approached her with was a learning experience.

“I think your mind sort of controls everything. Your mind controls, you know, how your body feels and how your mood is,” she explains.

“One of the things I learned growing up, my grandma, she had lung cancer when I was younger, and now she’s cancer free, but I just remember she didn’t. was never too negative about it and was always positive.”

Gauff and Anderson on the field for a friendly match.

This attitude made a lasting impression on the youngster and her views on mental health. “I remember my grandmother telling me that the only reason she thought she had beaten her – because she had reached stage four and the odds were not good – was that she woke up every day so mentally in a positive and happy light..

“You know, when I was a kid, I didn’t really understand what was going on. But I remember never seeing her sad or upset or saying, ‘Why me? Instead, she was like, ‘Why not me?’ So I think for me, now at this age, it showed me that your mindset can change everything in your life. So if you’re not good mentally, you know, it could be painful too.

Limit social networks

A new pressure young sports stars are born into is now in the social media spotlight, and Gauff says she’s learned to avoid spending too much time online.

“I’m very rarely on Twitter or Instagram. I’m just there to like my friends’ posts and comments and then log off again,” she says. “I would say TikTok is the one I follow the most on, just because I don’t see a lot of tennis, I don’t see much about me on the app, which I like.”

Resisting the temptation to try to please everyone on social media is important, Gauff believes. “I feel like a lot of people have a lot of good things to say, I would say the positive definitely outweighs the bad. But I guess, you know, I feel like as a human, you kind of want to watch what people are saying to you and saying about you.

“As human beings, we have it in our minds to please everyone, so you want to know what bad things people think of you so you can fix it. But some things are right, you just can’t do it. remedy. And so I just kind of stay away.”

Gauff said she tries not to spend too much time on social media.

It’s a unique philosophy that seems to extend to other areas of his life as well. Gauff strongly believes in going your own way for your own reasons.

“If you’re not doing it for yourself, don’t waste your time doing it,” she says. “Because you have to remember that this is going to be your life and you don’t want to spend the only life you have being miserable.”

Making every moment count is part of it, she says. “I think every day matters, whether it’s something small that you do every day, it’s a chance to improve yourself. The sun rises and sets every day and you want to make sure you make the most of it. time that counts between the two.”