Sweet 16: Memorable Coco Gauff moments as American sensation turns 16

leyeaduloju in Features 16 Mar 2020
Coco Gauff (PA Sport)

As Coco Gauff turns 16 on Friday, we celebrate the talented American teenager by going through a timeline of some of the best moments in her fledgling career.


French Open Junior title

Gauff reached her first Grand Slam junior final at the 2017 US Open, becoming the youngest ever finalist at the tournament, but she was comprehensively beaten by Amanda Anisimova. However, the American conquered the Junior Grand Slam terrain nine months later when she won the Roland Garros Girl’s crown, taking down good friend Catherine McNally 6-2 6-3 in the final. That result also took her to No. 1 in the world junior rankings.


First tour-level win

Less than a year after her Roland Garros Girls’ success, Gauff made her WTA main draw debut at the Miami Open in 2019, just a few days after her 15th birthday. The young gun made a winning entry to the WTA Tour, beating McNally (again) in her opening match. She fell 6-3 6-2 to Daria Kasatkina in the second round.


Youngest player to qualify for Wimbledon main draw

While those who followed the ITF Tour and the junior circuits already were aware of the precociously talented Gauff, and had marked her out as the next big thing in tennis, not many in the mainstream knew about the rising star. However, that would change at Wimbledon. Having being given a wildcard into the qualifying draw, Gauff powered to straight sets victories over Aliona Bolsova, Valentyna Ivakhnenko, and Greet Minnen to become the youngest player in the Open Era to reach the Wimbledon main draw.


Memorable Wimbledon campaign

Not content with being the youngest player in the Open Era to reach the Wimbledon main draw, Gauff proceeded to produce a sensational campaign at the All England Club, taking down five-time champion, and idol, Venus Williams in the first round.

Cori Gauff after her victory over Venus Williams at Wimbledon 2019 (PA Sport)

The 6-4 6-4 victory over her legendary compatriot made Gauff an instant favourite with the Wimbledon crowd and tennis world in general, and she entertained further with victories over former semi-finalist, Magdalena Rybarikova in the second round, and seasoned Slovenian, Magdalena Rybarikova, against whom she battled back from 6-3 3-0 down and saved two match points, in the third round. Her remarkable journey would end in the Round of 16, where she was stopped by eventual champion, Simona Halep.


Tearful US Open Exit

Given her exploits at Wimbledon, Gauff was naturally a big hit with the American crowd at her home Slam, and she delivered a couple of excellent three-set victories over Anastasia Potapova and Timea Babos to set up a hugely anticipated US Open third round meeting with then defending champion, Naomi Osaka. The match ended up being an anticlimax as Osaka powered to a 6-3 6-0 victory over her younger adversary, but what happened next became one of the most memorable moments of the season. Seeing that Gauff was devastated by the defeat, Osaka invited her tearful opponent to join her in the on-court post-match interview. Gauff was initially reluctant to accept the offer, but she was eventually convinced, and both young guns went on to share a heart-warming moment together.

Naomi Osaka consoles Coco Gauff at the 2019 US Open (PA Sport)


Top-100 debut, first top-ten win

Gauff ticked off another milestone in her next tournament in Linz, where she ensured that she would break into the top-100 with a second round victory over Kateryna Kozlova, and followed that up with her first top-ten win over Dutchwoman, Kiki Bertens in the quarter finals.


First WTA title

It was a weird week in Linz. Gauff thought her tournament was over when she fell to Tamara Korpatsch in the qualifying rounds, but she was granted a second chance via a lucky loser route into the main draw. Boy did she make the most of the opportunity. Gauff did not only reach her first WTA quarter final, semi-final and final, but she went on to win her maiden WTA title, beating Jelena Ostapenko in the final to become the youngest WTA champion in 15 years.


Osaka redemption

Just five months after her painful loss to Naomi Osaka at the US Open, Gauff got her revenge over the Japanese at the Australian Open in January 2020, scoring a 6-3 6-4 victory over the defending champion. She had earlier beaten Venus Williams (again) in the opening round and went on to reach the Round of 16 in Melbourne before losing to eventual champion, Sofia Kenin in a run that mirrored her Wimbledon effort from the previous season.

Gauff got her revenge over Osaka at the Australian Open (PA Sport)


Cracks top 50

Gauff reached another landmark in February, breaking into the top-50 for the first time. It has been a remarkable rise for the American teenager, who had begun 2019 at 686th in the world. Her rise has been put on hold for a few weeks as tennis takes a short break due to the coronavirus outbreak, but once the sport gets going again, this supremely talented teenager looks set to keep rising, and become one of the very best players in the world.