Gauff has long been one of her sport’s worst-kept secrets.
Three years ago, her father Corey Gauff told ESPN that Coco took to tennis when she was six years old because “she liked the skirts.”
Over the years she began to appreciate the technical aspect of the sport, too, as her long and lean figure meant that, as her dad put it, she had a “weird wingspan.” She was, perhaps, always destined to have a strong service game as a result.
At eight years old she met her idol Serena Williams for the first time at a tournament in New York. Gauff got the veteran American player to autograph a tennis ball.
“She’s always been my favorite player,” Gauff once said, according to ESPN. Apparently, Williams told her to “keep on doing what you’re doing.”
By the age of 12, she said she wanted emulate Williams and become “the greatest of all time.”
The next year she became the youngest ever player to reach the US Open girl’s final, and the year after she won her first title at the French Open.
She remains the youngest junior world girl’s number one ever, and is now the youngest woman to ever qualify for the main draw in a Grand Slam tournament.
What’s more, she’s doing it all in style.
Gauff shook up the world by showing drop shot prowess against Venus Williams in the first round of Wimbledon on Monday, broke the former five-time Wimbledon champion’s serve, and mastered rallies to take critical points from the more experienced competitor. In the end, she won 6-4, 6-4.
Two days later Gauff showed the Williams win was no fluke by winning in straight sets once again on Wednesday, this time beating Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3, 6-3.
Gauff has already won $139,000 in Wimbledon prize money but would make far, far more should she maintain this run and knock Polona Hercog out from the competition in the third round on Friday.
This, on top of the $75,011 in career earnings she had pocketed before setting food on the All England Club courts, means she has earned almost $215,000 (and counting) from tennis before her 16th birthday.
But according to Forbes , this is mere pocket change, as the teenager will be a millionaire within the next few months.
Gauff has deals with three key sponsors New Balance, the pasta-maker Barilla, and the racket manufacturer Head.
Gauff was already on course to “earn at least $1 million in 2019,” Forbes reported in March and the value of these deals are layered to performance, so she could earn even more.
What else do we know about Gauff?
In a press conference this week, Gauff said she uses social media to relax, dressed up as the Daughter of Eden for Halloween last year, and loves singer Jaden Smith, the son of Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith who is responsible for hits like “Sin,” “ICONIC,” and “Uno Dos.”
After her victory over Venus Williams, Gauff said she was left starstruck because of how many celebrities were messaging her.
As far as her pre-match ritual, she said she watches YouTube.
“Surprisingly, social media relaxes me kinda before a match, not really Instagram so much I watch YouTube videos which gets me in a laughing spirit or whatever.”
Gauff was then asked what, specifically, she watches. Laughing at the question, she flicked a long braid away from her eyes, and said: “I watch make-up tutorials, I watch blogging, social experiments. I watch Udy, they do a bunch of pranks, they keep me laughing. Whatever YouTube recommends me I kind of just watch.”
According to the New York Times , Gauff has musical interests away from Smith, and likes listening to Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, and Beyonce.
Destined for the top
Gauff, raised in Delray Beach, Florida, is cut from athletic cloth as her father played basketball at Georgia State while her mother, Candi, was a prominent track athlete at Florida State, Forbes reported .
Gauff, seemingly destined for the top of her sport, already has the backing of the biggest names in tennis. According to 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, Gauff is “so cool.” She said: “She’s a great girl. I love her dad. They’re just really cool people,” The Telegraph said .
20-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer, whose TEAM8 management firm represents Gauff, said before her win over Venus Williams that he was “super happy” that she qualified for the main draw.
“I saw the last couple of games when she qualified,” he said, according to Reuters . “It’s a great story. Coco is a nice girl, works really hard. I think she’s obviously got a wonderful future ahead of herself.”
Federer even saw Gauff at the All England Club this week.
Spotting her at the side of one of the outside courts, he said: “Hey, they she is!” before proceeding to slap her hand. After Federer disappeared, a smiling Gauff turned to the camera and said: “Get that on camera?”
To get an impression of how far people in tennis expect Gauff to go, perhaps the former three-time Wimbledon champion John McEnroe said it best. “If she isn’t number one in the world by the time she is 20, I would be absolutely shocked,” he said, according to Reuters .
“It was too bad for Venus that she had to play her.”
Gauff contests her third round against Polona Hercog on Friday.