As 2019 draws to a close, USTA.com is taking a look back at the top storylines, headlines and highlights from the year in American tennis. Now up, a look at Coco Gauff’s remarkable season that started with a breakout win over her idol Venus Williams at Wimbledon and concluded with her first career WTA singles title.
Call her a record-breaker. Call her a trend-setter. Call her a champion.
Call her Coco.
Talented but largely unknown outside of tennis circles, 15-year-old Cori “Coco” Gauff started 2019 as the 685th-best women’s tennis player in the world. She’d had success on the junior circuit over the previous two seasons and had started developing a small but loyal following on her social media accounts.
Now she’s ending 2019 at No. 68 in the world, the youngest player inside the Top 100. There are no other 15-year-olds in the Top 100. Or 16-year-olds. Or 17-year-olds.
Jav sex In fact, there are only three other players 15 or younger inside the Top 1,000. None are ranked higher than No. 758.
Gauff’s rise is ‘once-in-a-generation’ kind of special, the sort of unexpected explosion in talent linked with players like Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis and Tracy Austin. Gauff’s sudden climb up the rankings is a reminder of exactly why the WTA introduced rules well before she was born to limit the schedule of teen prodigies in a hope to avoid burnouts in the early stages of a career.
The 2019 year has been a whirlwind for Gauff, both on and off the court. It all began with an unlikely first-round win over five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in London this summer. Then came the craziness.
She met her idols, beat her idols and received gifts from celebrities. She was undoubtedly the hottest tennis commodity of the season, even though she only spent the second half of the year in the spotlight. She packed a raucous Louis Armstrong Stadium at the US Open for her singles matches and had fans stacked four rows deep on the field court for her doubles. Adults wanted their photo taken with her. Young children were in awe just to see her in person.
Gauff met former first lady Michelle Obama and was on the cover of a special edition of Teen Vogue. She hung out with Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving at the Nets’ training facility and with Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard at the Staples Center in Hollywood. She had a meet-and-greet with her favorite singer Jaden Smith backstage at Madison Square Garden, and she was nominated for a People’s Choice Award.
Nike and New Balance got into a bidding war to endorse her. Roger Federer followed her on Instagram, and John McEnroe said she could be world No. 1 by the end of 2020. Beyoncé’s mother sent her a message of support. Not Beyoncé, but Beyoncé’s mom. Most of this happened before she even won her first career WTA title in October.
Entering Wimbledon qualifying in June, she had around 4,000 followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She’ll end the year with more than 850,000.
Earlier this month, Billie Jean King nominated Gauff for the Time 100 Next list, a compilation Time magazine describes as “the rising stars and up-and-comers who are shaping their industries—and the future.”
The Time 100 Next list is split into five categories: artists, advocates, leaders, innovators and phenoms, the latter of which is the category in which Gauff is featured.
“Coco Gauff has a certain ‘It’ factor,” Billie Jean King said in her nomination of Gauff. “Coco is a special one. She loves the big stage, is very well prepared on and off the court, and—most importantly—she knows there are so many more opportunities ahead for her life and her career. But because she has proved she is exceptional at tennis, she now has a platform to inspire all of us, especially young people.”
Call her a star in the making. Call her tennis’ next big thing. Call her an inspiration.
Call her Coco.
Here’s a look at Gauff’s meteoric rise in 2019.
Gauff started the year at No. 685 in the world. In her first tournament of the season, she defeated fellow American Ashley Kratzer, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, in the opening round of a W100 ITF USTA Pro Circuit event in Midland, Mich. She won just three games in her next match against top-seeded Rebecca Peterson of Sweden, taking home $1,559 in prize money and helping her jump to No. 582 in the rankings.
The 14-year-old reached the final of a W25 ITF USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Surprise, Ariz., jumping another 100-plus places in the rankings to a career-high of 454.
On the heels of a three-set win over doubles partner and good friend Caty McNally at the Miami Open, Gauff’s first Premier Mandatory-level tournament, Gauff climbed into the Top 400 on April 1 to another new career high at No. 383.
Gauff came through qualies to reach the quarterfinals of her first clay-court tournament of the year at the W100 ITF USTA Pro Circuit event in Charleston, S.C., and she followed that up with a run to the quarters at a W60 tournament in Saint-Gaudens, France. She also won her first qualifying match at Roland Garros before falling to Kaja Juvan in Round 2. On May 20, Gauff was ranked No. 320 in the world.
Gauff announced herself to the sporting world at Wimbledon, upsetting five-time champion and idol Venus Williams on Centre Court in the first round. It made international headlines and was the start of Gauff’s rise to megastar this year. Gauff followed up her win against Venus with victories over Magdalena Rybarikova and Polona Hercog before seeing her remarkable run, which included beating the top seed in qualies to even make the main draw, ended by Simona Halep in the Round of 16. The teenager earned almost $250,000 for her run in London, jumping from No. 313 to No. 141 in the rankings.
The eyes of the tennis world, and celebrities from Beyoncé to Michelle Obama, were locked in on Gauff when she arrived in New York City for her home Slam. A former junior runner-up at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Gauff rallied to beat Anastasia Potapova in the first round before outlasting Timea Babos in Round 2. Under the bright lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium, Gauff lost to top seed and defending champion Naomi Osaka in the third round in a primetime matchup that featured a touching post-match moment between the two players, when Osaka invited a teary-eyed Gauff to join her for her on-court interview.
In the rankings published after the US Open, Gauff reached a new career-high of No. 106 on Sept. 9.
Gauff capped her remarkable first professional season with her first WTA title at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz tournament in Linz, Austria. Gauff battled through two rounds of qualifying before upsetting top seed Kiki Bertens, former world No. 9 Andrea Petkovic and 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in consecutive matches. The win saw her climb into the Top 100 for the first time in her career, entering at No. 71.
Having shut down her season after the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open, Gauff reached No. 68 on Nov. 4, a career-high ranking that she still holds. That ranking is more than high enough to get her direct entry into the Australian Open in January. With no points to defend in Melbourne, another good run could see her quickly rise up the rankings even further, with the chance of being seeded in Paris, London or New York a very real possibility before the 2020 season is over.