Beating Venus Williams and reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon? Check. Praised by the likes of Michelle Obama, Serena Williams and Roger Federer? Check. Coco Gauff might have been an overnight sensation at Wimbledon in July, but that was just the beginning. As she looks to her first US Open, we asked ESPN analysts Chris Evert and Pam Shriver, two Hall of Famers who know a thing or two about being elite teenage tennis stars, to break down her game.
How would you describe Coco Gauff’s game?
Evert: She’s a great athlete. Her movement, her court coverage is extraordinary. She has a lot of power. She’s good at figuring out the right shot at the right time.
Shriver: At Wimbledon she had a complete game where she could hurt you from all parts of the court. She has tremendous speed. Her emotional ability to stay calm under pressure was impressive. What are her strengths? Evert: Her first serve. At 15, it’s already a weapon. She’s usually controlling the points, and that’s an advantage for her to have. Shriver: Her court coverage is near the top. What impressed me is that she took care of the biggest points with understanding of the importance of that point. You can’t really say that most of the time about the young, powerful, athletic players through decades.
What about her weaknesses?
Evert: Her forehand. Her backhand is her strength, especially backhand down the line. That’s her money shot. But her forehand is more vulnerable.
Shriver: I want to see the second serve become more consistent. She’s double-faulting too much. She’s not winning enough points on her second serve. But at 15, that’s to be expected.
What’s an underrated part of her game?
Evert: Her touch, because you see the power 90 percent of the time and then all of a sudden, she’ll surprise you with a slice, backhand or a touch drop shot. Then you realize she can mix it up really well.
Shriver: The variety of her spins. There are not many 15-year-olds that can hit top spin, flat and slice.
What can we expect to see from her at the U.S. Open?
Evert: It’s going to depend on the draw. Playing in front of an American crowd is going to lift her even higher. Hard courts are her best surface. There’s no reason to think she won’t do well. Her attitude is so great. She’s hungry for it.
Shriver: It could be anything from an upset first-round loss to another great run at a major. Who knows her draw? In this age of women’s tennis, there aren’t many easy spots in the draw. And I have to put her round of 16 performance at Wimbledon into perspective. The only reason we talk so much about it is because of her age. And she handled herself beautifully and her parents were endearing. But it was still just a round of 16. I could show you all the different players who have been to the round of 16 in majors in the last five years, and you’d see names you’ve long forgotten.
What advice would you give her?
Evert: It all depends on the people she surrounds herself with. If you’re 21, it depends on you. But if you’re 15, it depends on your parents more than anybody. So take it slow. Just work on your game.
Shriver: Instead of worrying about the gap between tournaments, work on the specialty shots that continue to elevate her. They should look at gaps between competitions at age 15 as their friend. I would try to have her understand what a 20-year career in tennis means, like how long a time that is. It’s not a sprint, it’s a long race. She needs adults in the room to give her perspective over time and help take the pressure off.
Interview by Charlotte Gibson