When 15-year-old Coco Gauff defeated Venus Williams at the 2019 Wimbledon Championship, she became more than just a tennis star — she became a household name. Though she later lost to Simona Halep in the tournament’s fourth round, headlines proclaimed her a “tour pro” and “tennis phenom.”
When she later had opponents like Naomi Osaka in the 2019 US Open and Sofia Kenin in the 2020 Australian Open, she felt like she “had to win.” And that immense pressure she put on herself took a toll on her mental health.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Coco opens up about this pressure to win:
“It wasn’t that I believed I could win the tournament. It’s that I expected to . . . now I look back at it, I’d say there was no chance that girl would beat [Naomi Osaka], but in my head at the time, it felt like I had to win. At 15, I just put so much on myself […] I think I got too caught up in tennis, tennis, tennis.”
Now 18 years old, she contemplates finding fame and success and wins at barely 15.
“I think I’ve learnt a lot over the last three years. That moment — beating Venus at Wimbledon — made me believe that my dreams were closer to reality than it felt. It was definitely a lot to deal with. The biggest thing I’ve learnt is you don’t have to care about what other people expect from you. Just enjoy the moment. I wasn’t enjoying the moment then.”
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As for how she’s finally gotten to a place of “enjoying the moment,” Gauff gives credit to a new habit: walking. This happened when she was in Paris during the 2022 French Open.
“I would go on walks in the morning, people watch. You take a step back from life and your own head. Seeing the ducks in the lake, that little moment . . . I don’t know how to put it into words without sounding crazy, but it made me feel there’s more to life than tennis and that took a big weight off my shoulders. And I definitely played like that in Paris.”
Today, she sees the value in fan and family support — regardless of a match or tournament outcome.
“People come up to me and say they support me regardless of whether I win or lose, and it almost brings me to tears,” she says. “Because when I was younger, even 15 or 16, I would think that people would only like me if I won.”
Wimbledon begins this Monday, and all eyes will be on Coco. And though she says she feels more nervous than for other tournaments, playing at Wimbledon makes her feel like “the Queen.”