The United States found its latest tennis sensation last week as 15-year-old Cori Gauff advanced to the 4thround of Wimbledon. Gauff, nicknamed “Coco,” entered the tournament as a wild card and was ranked #303 in the world.
Gauff’s incredible road to Wimbledon began when she was 8 years old. Her father, Corey, and her mother, Candi, had been college athletes at Georgia State and Florida State, respectively. They allowed her to commit to whatever sport she wanted and she chose tennis, influenced by the success of Venus and Serena Williams.
In a profile in the New York Times, Gauff shared about the most important legacy her father instilled in her. She said, “Before every match since I was 8, my dad and I say a prayer together.” She explained that the prayer is not part of a strategy for success, but rather an expression of thanks to God and of dependence on him. She continued, “We don’t really pray about victory, just that me and my opponent stay safe.”
Gauff did not expect to be playing in Wimbledon this year. She and her father were on their way to a tennis academy in southern France when they received a phone call with an offer for her to play in the qualifying tournament. Gauff and her family made the trek to England, where she took full advantage of her opportunity. She won all three of her qualifying matches in straight sets and earned an opportunity to play for the sport’s greatest prize with 63 other women.
Gauff’s first match brought her face-to-face with one her of childhood heroes as she drew a first-round match against five-time champion Venus Williams. Gauff tried to forget who she was playing against and focus on her on game. She said, “On the court, I was not thinking about Venus. I was just playing my own game.”
Her “own game” impressively dismissed Williams, 39, in straight sets. Then, Gauff thought about who was on the other side of the net and wanted to tell her how grateful she was for her. As they shook hands at the net, Gauff maintained a tight grip on Williams’s hand and “was just telling her thank you for everything she’s done for the sport. She’s been an inspiration for many people. I was just really telling her thank you.”
Then, Gauff went to her chair and prayed again. She clutched her racket and cried as she prayed. “I was just thanking God for this opportunity.” She was overjoyed that she came to Wimbledon with a goal and was able to fulfill it. She said, “My goal was to play my best. My dream was to win. That’s what happened.”
Gauff advanced to the fourth round of the tournament, where she lost to the former top player in the world, Simona Halep.
Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Shaun Botterill/Staff