There are few things as reinvigorating as seeing a young sportsperson achieving success in major professional sport. 15-year-old Coco Gauff gave us all a taste of that special joy at Wimbledon this year, toppling tennis legend Venus Williams in the first round before eventually losing out to women’s singles winner, Simona Halep in round four.
Gauff played without the inhibitions that might affect a more mature player, and while this arguably is the downside of inexperience, it makes a fantastic spectacle to see a player perform with the shackles off. Gauff was not overawed by the occasion of playing on Centre Court at Wimbledon, nor the significance of her first Grand Slam appearance.
These are experiences that will stand her in good stead going forward in her career. All eyes will be on the next Grand Slam to see if she can repeat her success, and those who bet on US Open 2019 women’s winner will not be taking her lightly. Success brings expectation, but Gauff does not appear to be someone who will be overwhelmed by the scrutiny she will find herself under.
In some ways, Gauff’s run at Wimbledon brought back memories of Maria Sharapova’s triumph on Centre Court to win the championships as a 17-year-old in 2004. Of course, winning a Grand Slam title is another thing entirely, but if Gauff can build on her nascent success then who could argue against her winning multiple Slams as Sharapova has gone on to do.
Tennis fans love an underdog, and a young rising star inspires support from the stands from those eager to encourage the next wave of talent in the sport. This was true of Andy Murray’s emergence onto the scene in 2005, and it could be argued that the massive support he received from the Wimbledon crowd at such a tender age was the catalyst for the Scot to go on and eventually win the tournament on two occasions.
This is why the US Open could be key for Gauff. American tennis stars are desperate for a new star to cheer on. Sloane Stephens has enjoyed relative success of late, and of course won the US Open in 2017, but if Gauff can gain the support of the home crowd at Flushing Meadows, it could prove a major encouragement to work hard towards eventually tasting victory in her home Grand Slam.
It is important that Gauff follows up her performances at Wimbledon with further success. Even at 15, the sporting public are quick to label athletes as a ‘flash in the pan’ or a wasted talent, and for Gauff it will be important to silence such doubters as soon as possible. It is undoubtedly key that she remains level-headed in the months ahead, not to get swept away in the wave of her new-found publicity.
Sport can often offer us signs, and perhaps Gauff’s defeat of Venus Williams was symbolic of a changing of the guard, of a passing of the mantle that the Venus and Serena have held for such a long time. As time moves on, new stars are needed to replace those that must inevitably fade. Gauff may well be the heir apparent of American women’s tennis.