One of the least surprising things Coco Gauff can tell you is that she started to learn to drive at 13. Of course she did. After all, this is the American teenager who last year stunned five-time champion Venus Williams in the first round of Wimbledon – and then astounded the public by taking all the hype in her stride.
By the time she turned 16 in March this year, Gauff had won her first tour-level singles title, knocked defending champion Naomi Osaka out of the Australian Open, broken into the top 50 and become a powerful voice speaking against racial inequality.
Her poise, eloquence and maturity beyond her years have won many admirers. And you really don’t need to look too far to see where she has got it from.
On 1 July, 2019, a 15-year-old American stepped out on Court One to face her idol Venus Williams at Wimbledon.
Those who follow the stats might have noticed Gauff had become the youngest player to qualify for the main Wimbledon draw since the Open era began in 1968. Others were asking the press office whether to pronounce her name ‘Gawf’ or ‘Goff’ – it’s the latter – and no matter how they were pronouncing her surname, they were still calling the teenager by her given name, Cori.
But a 6-4 6-4 win over a player who had won four Grand Slam titles before she was even born changed everything – Coco had arrived.
She became the hot ticket as she progressed through the rounds, saving two match points against Polona Hercog to reach the last 16. There she lost to eventual champion Simona Halep, leaving to a standing ovation from a crowd who had been well and truly charmed.
Gauff made a lasting impression, not only with the pundits who predicted a trophy-laden future, but also with the public who saw a humble teenager who was “thankful for the experience” and planned to merely buy a new hoodie with her £176,000 prize money.