By Ben Rothenberg
Cori Gauff, the 15-year-old sensation, made one of the most memorable Wimbledon debuts in recent memory by beating Venus Williams on Monday. And she didn’t stop there: She moved on to the third round with a victory over Magdalena Rybarikova on Wednesday. She plays again Friday.
Before then, here is a primer on Gauff’s young career:
Nickname: Coco. Not to be confused with CoCo, the nickname of American player Colleen Vandeweghe. Gauff’s first name is pronounced the same as her father’s, Corey. “He likes to say every time they call me ‘Cori,’ they’re cheering for him,” Cori said Monday, with filial exasperation.
Hometown: Gauff was born in Delray Beach, Florida, on March 13, 2004. She grew up in Atlanta before moving back to Delray Beach to focus on tennis.
Family: Her father, Corey, is her primary coach and was a basketball player at Georgia State. Her mother, Candi, was a hurdler and heptathlete at Florida State. All members of Gauff’s immediate family have the initials CDG, including her younger brothers, Cody and Cameron.
Pedigree: Gauff began playing tennis at age 7, inspired by Serena Williams. Her first big splash at the ITF junior level was reaching the girls final of the 2017 U.S. Open at 13. She won the girls final of the French Open the next year at 14 and finished her junior career at the end of last year by winning the prestigious Orange Bowl tournament.
Hoop dreams: Her father originally wanted her and her siblings to play basketball, as he had in college. She didn’t like it and couldn’t shoot, she said, but was able to play good defence.
High-profile connections: Gauff is represented by Team8, the agency co-founded by Roger Federer. Since she was 10, she has trained part of the year in southern France at the Mouratoglou Academy, which is run by Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams’ coach.
Favorite meme: Like many her age, Gauff speaks fluent meme. Her current favorite is “And I — Oop!”, an interjection of surprise created by Jasmine Masters, an alumna of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Gauff said many of her friends sent her the phrase after her shocking win at Wimbledon. (In a show of the generational gap, perhaps, tournament stenographers at her news conference Monday spelled it “Anna Oop.”)
Musical heroes: Gauff looks up to Rihanna and Beyoncé, but her favorite singer is Jaden Smith. She said she had his song “Icon” stuck in her head during her first-round qualifying match and also listened to it, along with tracks by Kendrick Lamar and Miss Mulatto, before playing Venus Williams.
How she got here: Ranked 313th, Gauff was given a wild card into the Wimbledon qualifying tournament. In her first match, she beat the highest-ranked player in the event, No. 94 Aliona Bolsova, who had reached the fourth round of the French Open. Gauff then won her next two matches in straight sets to become the youngest women to qualify for Wimbledon in the Open era. Her 6-4, 6-4 first-round victory against Venus Williams was her debut in the main draw of a Grand Slam event. She followed it up with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Rybarikova, a surprise Wimbledon semifinalist in 2017.
Her next opponent: In the third round Friday, Gauff will face Polona Hercog of Slovenia, who upset 17th-seeded Madison Keys on Wednesday. Hercog, 28, is ranked 60th and has never advanced past the third round at a major. Then again, neither has Gauff.