The emergence of Coco Gauff is one of the biggest stories of the tennis year
- Chronicling the rise of teenage prodigy Coco Gauff.
It is a set precedent that women tennis players turn pro much younger than men do, but rarely do they start at the age of 14. A tennis player that wants to go pro at such a young age would get a quick response to go to school first by most parents.
But Cori "Coco" Gauff's parents supported her the whole way, which paved her path to become one of the few black tennis players to reach that high in the rankings at such a young age. It is natural for people to compare her to Venus and Serena Williams, based on their race and the ages they all started at.
Many of the youth in the current generation look up to Venus Williams, as she was the highest standard for women's tennis for a while before she passed that honor onto her sister. And Gauff got a chance to burst into the limelight by beating Venus at Wimbledon; she got the better of the veteran in straight sets at this year's Championships, for the biggest win of her young career.
After that people started to take notice of her feats, but there were many hints even before the big win that showed her bright potential. Success in doubles came right away with her partner, another young American Caty McNally.
The partnership, now referred to as "McCoco", won the US Open Juniors doubles title in 2018. They did not slow down on the WTA Pro Tour, winning two titles together this year - at Luxembourg and Washington.
Gauff recently won her first pro singles title at the Linz Open in Austria, where she defeated Jeļena Ostapenko, a former top 5 player, in three hard-fought sets (6-3, 1-6, 6-2). The win took her to a career-high ranking of No. 69 in the world.
The resilience and poise Gauff showed at such a young age by coming back to dominate the third set after losing a lop-sided second was particularly impressive. Gauff even registered her first top 10 win during the course of the tournament, defeating world No. 8 Kiki Bertens in the quarterfinals.
There hasn't been another player in recent years who has drawn this much excitement before even turning 16. Grand Slams have been especially fruitful for the young star; she has a dazzling 5-2 record in them, which includes a 4th round finish at Wimbledon and a run to the third round at the US Open.
Gauff's competitive spirit is undeniable, and her parents in her box look just as enthusiastic about her success as she herself does. After almost every turning point in a match, Coco's dad Cori yells from the stands to try and get her fired up.
With such a great start to Gauff's young career, the only way to go is up - as long as she stays focused. Many young stars in recent times - including the likes of Eugenie Bouchard and Melanie Oudin - had impressive results early on but fell by the wayside in the face of the overwhelming fame and recognition they received. Gauff would have to guard against a similar drop-off.
She and Bianca Andreescu, the young Canadian who just won the US Open, will want to prove to the world that this generation of teenagers is different; that they can sustain their success by working on their game and maintaining their intensity.
If the young star can keep the pedal to the metal, then the sky is the limit. She has only just scratched the surface of what could potentially lie in store for her.Published 24 Oct 2019, 21:43 IST