With Serena Williams retired, Coco Gauff is being seen by many as the new torchbearer for American tennis. At only 18 years old, Gauff has already shown that she has what it takes to emulate the 23-time Grand Slam champion.
Despite all that, the teenager herself is of the opinion that trying to live up to the legend's legacy is a fool's game and that she would be better off not walking in those larger-than-life shoes.
After reaching her maiden Grand Slam final earlier this year at the French Open and reaching the No. 1 spot in doubles, the American added yet another feather to her 2022 cap -- qualifying for the WTA Finals. Taking on Elisabetta Cocciaretto in the second round of the WTA 1000 event in Guadalajara, Gauff secured a 7-6(1), 6-3 win to secure her spot in the season-ending competition.
Speaking at her press conference afterward, the World No. 7 was asked if she felt any pressure about the expectations of carrying on Williams' legacy, a question she quickly dismissed.
Stating that the 41-year-old's biggest achievement to boot - winning an Open Era record 23 Majors - is impossible to forget, Gauff noted that there was no point trying to match it, as the record would stand on its own even if someone did well enough to come close to it. The French Open finalist, therefore, was free from pressure, giving her the space to play her own game.
"I think her legacy is something that is going to be hard for anyone to carry out, so I'm not going to place that pressure on myself," Coco Gauff said. "Also, I mean, her legacy no matter if someone does get to - she has 23 - if someone gets to 23 again, I still think that her legacy will stand alone on its own. So it's not something that I feel pressure to fulfill."
While Gauff admitted that she did feel the pressure from other quarters, Serena Williams' retirement alone did not contribute to them. In the teenager's mind, the former World No. 1 hanging up her racquet was simply a sad reminder that one of the GOATs has left the sport, nothing more and nothing less.
"But I do feel pressure more so in other things, but maybe not so much with her retiring," Coco Gauff said. "I think with her retiring from the sport, I mean, that's just one of the G.O.A.T.s leaving, so I'm not going to try to put myself up there - at least not now."
"I'm going to be honest, being No. 1 is not one of my goals" - Coco Gauff
During the press conference, Coco Gauff was also asked if she thought of becoming World No. 1 at some point in her career, to which she surprisingly remarked that she did not. Revealing that she never checked her rankings, even from the time she was in junior tennis, the teenager commented that the No. 1 spot was not as big of a motivating factor for her as it was for most players.
"I'm going to be honest, being No. 1 is not one of my goals (laughing). I've always not focused on ranking. I think it's just the way my dad taught me, even in juniors," Coco Gauff said. "When I actually reached No. 1 in juniors, I found out on a social media post. I had no clue where I was in the rankings. Now I'm more aware just because of interviews I'm being told where I'm ranked. I don't check my ranking."
The World No.7's biggest goal was to win Grand Slams, although she conceded that winning enough Majors would help her get to the No. 1 spot sooner rather than later. As much as she did not think about it, Gauff admitted that becoming the top-ranked WTA player would be "really cool."
"If I reach No. 1 it would be great, but my goal is to win grand slams. Obviously, if you win grand slams, the ranking will come. That's always what my dad has told me and that's why I'm not so focus on that number because I feel like when you step on the court, no matter if you are ranked No. 1 or 200, you have equal opportunity to win," Coco Gauff said.
"So I have never been focused on so much ranking and numbers. Obviously, if I do reach No. 1, it would be really cool, and I would be really grateful for that," she added.