CORI GAUFF IS THE BEACON OF A WILLIAMS DYNASTY
July 9, 2019
Cori “Coco” Gauff was born in March 2004. The movie “Wimbledon” was released in September of that year, and became one of my favorite films about rich white people with high class, high stakes ennui, wrapped up in a love story. 2004 was also the year that Serena Williams would lose the Wimbledon final to Maria Sharapova. Venus Williams would go on to beat Sharapova in the semis the next year, to go on and win her third Wimbledon championship after rescuing a match point from Lindsay Davenport with her phenomenal backhand. Even then, their hold on tennis was strong. This was the world that Gauff grew up in — a world where the Williams Sisters’ dynasty revolutionized the sport. The 15-year-old has not known tennis without the Williams Sisters, and her performance in competitive tennis for the last two years shows the promise of a shattered ceiling for Black women in the sport.
This moment didn’t begin with Gauff, as Sloane Stephens and Naomi Osaka (of Haitian and Japanese ancestry), are already out here collecting silverware. Gauff has been sweeping the junior competitive championships, winning the Junior French Open and the U.S. Open Doubles championships. She first made senior waves earlier this year when she nearly made it past the qualifying rounds for the French Open back at the end of May/early June. She got into the Wimbledon final 16 as a wildcard, making her the youngest person to qualify for Wimbledon. She broke barriers before even stepping on the grass and the rest is not history, because this force of nature managed to beat one of her literal tennis idols in the first round.
Gauff entered the competition seeded 313th, before eventually being knocked out by seventh seed Simona Halep in the fourth round on Monday. But not before she completely enchanted the sporting world and fueled my tank of petty towards the tennis racists who believed that Black female presence on these courts would disappear after the Williams Sisters — when Venus and Serena have not even disappeared themselves. It would have been a fairytale story to watch Gauff win Wimbledon, but there is no pressure there; she’ll be lifting a trophy in front of a crowd and the world soon enough. Here is a 15-year-old, who, according to the New Yorker, faced down and saved three match points in her third and final match of the tournament. The future is bright. The talent is unmistakable.
What Cori lacks in her forehand game, she makes up for with nerves of steel and demeanor that can only be attributed to the environment fostered by her parents/coaches, Corey and Candi Gauff. Black parents and the Grand Slam circuit have been a match made in heaven ever since Richard Williams cracked the code. Little seems to have changed since according to Candi Gauff: “We are on year seven of a ten-year plan,” she told NBC News. “Part of that was at the end of ten years, she would be holding a Grand Slam trophy.” Taking that timeline into account, Cori has till she is 18 to win a Grand Slam. Venus won her first Grand Slam at the US Open in 1997 at the age of 17. Two years later, Serena collected her first trophy at the US Open — also 17. With parents as dedicated and organized as the Gauff’s, on top of Cori’s already stellar performance, I can see no plausible reason as to why Cori wouldn’t land a Grand Slam by 18.
I plan to be as protective of the Cori as I am with the Williams Sisters because of passage like this, penned by Louisa Thomas for the New Yorker. It goes: “It’s absurd for an untried fifteen-year-old to think that she could become the champion. That confidence is a big reason she may win, and soon—as big a reason as her powerful serve, her sound shot selection, her athleticism, and her deft touch. In the meantime, how she handles losing will likely be as big a test as any opponent. It will be a test for her many new fans, too.” Gauff was upset about losing, like every other athlete who doesn’t make it to the end of a Grand Slam tournament. The only reason why Thomas would even include this seemingly innocuous caveat is because of Serena and the treatment she has endured as an elite player in this sport. Cori is Black so we can assume there is copious amounts of home training — the kind reserved for a dark skin Black girl. For journalists to already question how she will handle losing, merely prophesizes the trouble white media will have with her winning. As a fan of Cori, I caught Louisa’s sub and she can know that we will defend Cori from tennis racism with impunity. Test that.