Cori “Coco” Gauff bowed out of Wimbledon in the Round of 16 after defeating her idol, playing on Centre Court and then facing a top-10 player.
The 15-year-old, who was the youngest player to qualify for the Wimbledon main draw in the modern era, according to the Washington Post, is heading back to high school.
Her run is over. But her stardom is just beginning.
Gauff’s arrival took the tennis world and casual viewers alike by storm. She took down her idol Williams in the opening round 6-4, 6-4.
Gauff said that was the first time she ever cried after a tennis match.
“I told her thank you for everything she did … I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her,” Gauff said.
This victory made her the 27th player under the age of 16 to win at least one match in their first Grand Slam event, according to Five Thirty Eight.
Gauff is in good company. She was the youngest to win at Wimbledon since 1991, when Jennifer Capriati won at the All England Club at the age of 14.
Nine of those 26 players preceding Gauff won major titles, including Capriati, who won three. Others include Steffi Graf, who debuted before shortly before turning 14 and won 22 Grand Slam titles, and Monica Seles, who first competed at 15 years old and won nine.
Of those 26, six eventually grabbed hold of the No. 1 title, including the three aforementioned athletes.
Tennis great John McEnroe thinks Gauff could be the seventh, and could be sooner than later.
“If she’s not No. 1 in the world by 20, I will be absolutely shocked,” he said to BBC, according to Yahoo.
Gauff won her second round match 6-3, 6-3 over 30-year-old Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova, who entered the tournament No. 139.
The third round was trickier for Gauff, who lost the first set to Slovenian Polona Hercog and then fell behind 5-2 in the second. But she staved off match point, forced a tie-break in the set, and then won the third set 7-5.
Finally, in the Round of 16, Gauff fell 6-3, 6-3 to No. 7 Simona Halep, a Romanian who is the former No. 1-ranked player in the world.
It was a stunning entrance for a potential future star.
Last year, according to the Miami Herald, Gauff said she wants to “be the best ever.”
“I want to be better than Serena, and I want to have that Grand Slam record one day,” she said.
As The Undefeated notes, passing down the torch is important for athletes, particularly in the African American community.
Gauff has a long way to go. She’s just 15. But at the age of 15, she took down one of the tennis greats on the biggest stage and stole the attention of the world.
“Venus and Serena paved the way for her, and now she’s paving the way for other kids her age,” a cousin, Paul Fulton II, said to the Miami Herald.
With eyes around the world on her, Gauff is a step closer to achieving her goals.