In her Grand Slam debut, 15-year-old Cori Gauff upset 39-year-old Venus Williams in the first round at Wimbledon on Monday. Gauff is the tournament’s youngest player, while Williams entered as the oldest.
Gauff, who goes by the nickname “Coco,” became the youngest tennis player to win a match at Wimbledon since 1991 — when Jennifer Capriati won at the All England Club at 14.
“Honestly I don’t really know how to feel,” said Gauff, who was ranked No. 313 in the world entering Monday, in a post-round interview. “This was the first time I ever cried after a match. While winning, obviously. … I never thought this would happen. I’m literally living my dream right now. And not many people get to say that. I’m just happy that Wimbledon gave me the opportunity to play.”
Gauff, who had previously won the junior French Open title at 14 and had to earn her ticket to Wimbledon by knocking out No. 1 seed Aliona Bolsova in qualifying rounds, held off Williams 6-4, 6-4 in straight sets. She added afterwards that it was important to avoid being awestruck by the stage at the All England Club.
“I definitely had to tell myself to stay calm,” she said. “I had never played on a court that big. But I had to remind myself that the lines on the court are the same size. Everything around it might be bigger, but the lines are the same. After every point, I was just telling myself to stay calm.”
Gauff said that Williams, a five-time Wimbledon champion, was congratulatory. Gauff, who is African-American, drew inspiration from Venus and sister Serena growing up in Delray Beach, Florida, and has called the Williams sisters “idols” in previous interviews.
“She just told me congratulations and to keep going and good luck,” Gauff said of an exchange with Venus Williams. “I told her thank you for everything she did … I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her. And that she’s inspiring. Even though I met her before, I guess I had the guts to do that.”
There have been 11 players younger than Gauff to play at the main draw, but she is the only player to make it through qualifying instead of direct entry.
Gauff began training at the Mouratoglou Academy in Paris at 10 years old.