15-year-old breakout tennis star Cori “Coco” Gauff went from taking an exam to flying to England the next day to compete in the qualifying rounds of Wimbledon, and says her life changed in an instant after beating idol Venus Williams.
Coco recalls the moment her life changed forever in an interview with CBS This Morning, “It was crazy. Life literally changed in seconds. I got the call that I got the wild card, and we literally booked the plane, I believe, that night, left, and went to play [qualifiers].”
Qualifying was just the beginning, Gauff was then set to face her childhood idol, Venus Williams, but tried to think of her as just another opponent. “I was just trying to play her like a normal – like I would play somebody else. During the match, I kind of did not think about it as ‘oh, I’m playing Venus Williams,’ but as soon as match point was over, I literally was like, ‘I can’t believe that just happened,’ and I still can’t believe it as well.”
Knowing the gravity and rarity of not only someone her age getting as far as she did, but anyone getting this opportunity, she tried to stay in the moment. She said, “I believe everything happens for a reason, so I kinda just, like, said ‘let me just enjoy the moment.’ Because not too many people in the world get to experience this.”
Her ability to stay calm, keep off the pressure as much as possible paired with her “whatever happens happens” attitude allowed her to look past the experience gap with her opponents and find early success.
After her victory over Williams, celebrities, athletes and politicians went online to show their support for the young star.
She notes that seeing Michelle Obama recognize her accomplishments on Twitter was a highlight of the match aftermath. Gauff says she respects and is so impressed with what Obama does for girls around the world and the former First Lady been a role model for her.
Gauff also got a shoutout from her childhood crush, Jaden Smith, and says her friends were excited for that one because they know how much she loves him.
Gauff is the youngest player since 1991 to make it to the fourth round at Wimbledon and while her Cinderella story ended on Monday when she lost to former world No. 1 Simona Halep, the 15-year-old is looking ahead to the future.
When asked if she will continue to have to take exams before flying off to matches she says she has to graduate college, so exams are definitely in her future, even during tournaments. She also noted that her dad compares matches to tests, and analyzes what they can improve on after every one.
For now she says, “My training will remain the same – obviously we’ll work on new things… but pretty much my training will remain the same.”