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


“I just remember walking out on the field blasting music with my head held high because I didn’t want to look at the audience,” Goff told CNN’s Becky Anderson in Dubai.

“It was a long walk from the changing room,” she recalls. “It was, say, 15 minutes.” “Then they have all the walls of champions, and obviously I’ve seen Venus there so many times. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve raised this cup so many times. And here I am, about to confront her.'”

What happened next was a fantasy, with the teen tossing her veteran opponent aside in straight sets. Gough, stone-faced, almost in disbelief, walked slowly toward the jubilant Williams, who warmly congratulated her from across the net as the crowd erupted into thunderous applause.

elegant domination

Nearly three years later, Goff still draws inspiration from Venus and her sister Serena.

“They both inspired me,” she says. “And I would say, I don’t know, I think it’s not just their games, but how they handle themselves off the field is something I look forward to.”

Goff also acknowledges the importance of having two black role models in a sport that has traditionally lacked diversity. “For me, there’s not much representation of people who look like me in the sport; so, for me as a little girl, just seeing them dominate and do it with style, kind of inspired me.”

Quick facts about Serena Williams

Venus has also become something of a fan of Coco Gauff, too. “I’ve had conversations with them, like Venus, I had to play with them [her]. This was just something I never thought would happen. And it always takes root for me.

“I remember she posted Instagram Stories saying, people ask her questions like, ‘Who do you root for? And she’d say, ‘Serena,’ and then she’d say, ‘Me too,’ and I thought that was really cool because I never thought that would happen.

“I mean, as a kid, I never thought I’d play either of them, let alone my husband play one of them!”

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

an example

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

“For me, it just feels like there’s not a great deal of responsibility, I feel like it’s just me, and that’s like who I am,” 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 enough that some people in the world care what I have to say. So I try to make sure that I say it and say it right, or in a way that people understand.”

She says she realizes that she is setting an example for her two younger brothers. “I would say I’m kind of trying to hold on to what I want my siblings to be, [and be] A role model for my brothers.”

“Your mindset can change everything in your life”

The Atlanta-born star also takes inspiration from closer to home. Her grandmother is a cancer survivor, and Goff says watching that fight, and the positive mindset her grandmother dealt with, was a learning experience.

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

“One of the things I learned growing up, my grandmother had lung cancer when I was younger and is now cancer-free, but I remember she was never so negative about it, and she was always positive.”

Goff and Anderson on the field for a friendly match.

This situation left a lasting impression on the young woman and her views on mental health. “I remembered my grandmother telling me that the only reason she thought she beat it—because she was in stage four and chances are it didn’t look good—was that she would wake up mentally every day in a positive, happy light.

“You know, when I was a kid, I didn’t really understand what was going on. But I just remember she didn’t see her sad or upset or say, ‘Why me?'” Instead, she was saying, like, “Why not me?” So I think for me, now at this age, that showed me that your mindset can change everything in your life. So, if you’re not good mentally, you know It could be painful.”

Limit social media

The new pressure that young sports stars are now born with is in the spotlight on social media, and Gauff says she has learned to avoid spending too much time on the internet.

“I rarely use Twitter or Instagram. I’m just there to like and comment on my friends’ posts and then log out again,” she says. “I would say TikTok is the only one I play a lot, just because I don’t see much tennis, I don’t see much about me on the app, which I love.”

Goff believes that resisting the temptation to try and pleasing everyone on social media is important. “I feel like a lot of people have a lot of nice things to say, I’d say definitely the positives outweigh the bad. But I think, you know, I feel like a human being you kind of want to look at him telling you and saying about you.

“As human beings, we have something on our minds to please everyone, so you want to know the bad things people are thinking about you so you can fix them. But some things are fair, you can’t fix them. Kind of get away with it.”

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

It’s a single-minded philosophy that extends to other areas of her life as well. Goff is a firm believer in following your own path 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 in misery.”

She says making every moment count is part of that. “I think every day counts, whether it’s a little thing you do every day, it’s an opportunity to improve. The sun rises and sets every day and you want to make sure you make the most of the important time in between.”



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