Few people in the world have been able to make more than $800,000 in prize money from playing competitive sport before their 16th birthday. However, Coco Gauff is one of the few who have been able to do so.
The American teenager has been a revelation on the tour over the past year. Triggering a sharp rise in both fans and endorsements. Currently ranked 52nd in the world, she is the only player under the age of 17 in the top 100. As a junior, she proclaimed that she wanted to be ‘the best in the world’ in tennis and is currently on the right trajectory to rise to the top in only a matter of time.
“I first meet Cori when she was 10 at my academy,” coach Patrick Mouratoglou once told Ubitennis.
“She’s very special and has the two major qualities that you cannot teach. First of all, she is a great competitor. That is something very difficult to teach. Secondly, she’s a natural athlete. You can build (a player) physically, but natural athleticism is something you have or don’t have.’
“She’s a hard worker, which is something not everybody has and this is very important to reach the top of the game.” He added.
Gauff is undoubtedly fast becoming a household name and here are five things you need to know about the rising star.
1. Sport is in her blood
Born in Florida on March 13th 2004, Gauff’s parents were both keen athletes. Her father Corey played basketball at Golden State University. Meanwhile, her mother, Candi, excelled in Track and Field whilst at Florida State University. Gauff played both of those sports growing up, but it was talent and love for tennis that steered her away from them.
“I did basketball and track (athletics). Those were my favourite besides tennis. I was the only girl on the all-boys team for basketball. Which I actually kind of liked. On the track I did 800 meters and the 4x400M relay.” She told Ubitennis in 2019.
“Obviously tennis would be the best.”
2. She already has an extensive endorsement portfolio
In 2019 Forbes magazine estimated that the teenager will make $1 million in endorsements alone. She has already scored deals with shoe brand New Balance, racket manufacturer Head and prestigious Italian pasta company Barilla. Barilla are also known for their extensive work with 20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer.
— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) March 21, 2019
British newspaper The Telegraph has projected Gauff’s earnings to be in the range of £20 million before she reaches her twenties. This is according to Rob Mills, who is the chief executive of sport and entertainment measurement company Turnstile Sport.
“She is obviously young and you’ve got to see that consistency coming through, but if you look at say (Naomi) Osaka’s deals, we’re in the 8.5million US dollars territory. She’s going to be very quickly in that range very conceivably in the next 12 to 24 months. That’s only the sports brand category.” Mills predicts.
3. A member of Federer’s Team8
Managing the financial side of her career is Alessandro Barel Di Sant Albanoof from the agency Team8. A company co-founded by Federer and his agent Tony Godsick. The partnership has enabled the American to learn from and even mirror the Swiss maestro when it comes to the world of tennis. Both on the court and dealing with the financial side.
“Having insight on what Roger does definitely helps and while I don’t model him exactly on every point, I model some routines after him and how he handles himself,” Gauff told Forbes.com last month. “Being close to Serena (Williams) and close to Roger is really a plus for me and an advantage I have to take care of.”
The two have held numerous exchanges. One of their earliest dates back to the 2018 Australian Open where Gauff lost her opening match in the junior tournament. Following the defeat, she received some valuable advice from Federer.
“He told me not to focus too much on the pressure or the outside drama. He gave me some perspective,” Gauff recalled.
“Now, I try to enjoy the tennis and I barely think of that fist-round loss two years later.”
4. A big time player in grand slams
Despite her young age, Gauff has already exceeded expectations in the major tournaments. Her rise on the tour started last summer when she reached the fourth round of Wimbledon as a qualifier before losing to eventual champion Simona Halep. Becoming the youngest player to do so since Jennifer Capriati in 1991.
Wimbledon wasn’t just a one-off for the American. She also managed to reach the last 32 at both the US Open and Australian Open before her 16th birthday. Reaching the third round or better at her first three grand slam appearances. A milestone that both of the Williams sisters were unable to do.
It was at this year’s Australian Open where Gauff recorded her most high-profile win when she downed the then world No.4 and defending champion Naomi Osaka in straight sets. Becoming the youngest woman to score a win over a top-five player in a grand slam since Jennifer Capriati upset world No.3 Gabriela Sabatini in the quarter-finals of the 1991 US Open.
“I’m doing well right now at 15, [but] I still have so much I feel like I can get better at. I don’t even think this is close to a peak for me.” She told reporters in January.
So far in her career, Gauff has won eight grand slam main draw matches. Three at both Wimbledon and the Australian Open, as well as two at the US Open. She is just the third player in the past 30 years to have earned eight grand slam wins before turning 16.
5. Already a WTA Champion
In October 2019 Gauff won the most prestigious title in her blossoming career to date. Securing entry into the main draw of the Linz Open as a lucky loser, she stunned top seed Kiki Bertens and Andrea Petkovic en route to her maiden WTA final. Standing in her way was former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, who she downed 6-3, 1-6, 6-2, to win her first WTA title.
“This was definitely not on the calendar at the beginning of the year, because I didn’t think I’d have a chance to get in, and now I’m the champion.“ She commented on her triumph.
“It’s just insane that I got in as a lucky loser and now I’m the champion. My dad told me when I got in, before the first main‑draw match, he said: ‘You can’t lose twice in the same tournament.’ I’m sure he never thought it would come this far, to being the champion, but I guess he was right.”
Gauff is the youngest WTA champion since Nicole Vaidisova back in 2004. Furthermore, she is the youngest American WTA champion since 1991. Both Serena and Venus were 17 when they won their first trophy on the tour.
Wimbledon Champion Simona Halep Wary About Return To Tour
The world No.2 is expecting a tough time when she returns to action following the lengthy suspension of the sport due to COVID-19.
Simona Halep has admitted that she has concerns about returning to tennis following a lengthy period away from the sport.
The two-time grand slam champion hasn’t played a competitive match since winning the Dubai Tennis Championships in February. All professional tennis tournaments have been suspended or cancelled since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials are hoping to get the sport back on its feet during the summer but an exact return date is still to be confirmed with the US Open set to announce next month if their tournament will go ahead or not.
Spending her lockdown in Romania, Halep is expecting a tough time when she returns to action due to having a lack of match play. To fill the void, some top 10 players have entered into domestic tournaments. Both Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova are playing tournaments in the Czech Republic. Meanwhile, Elina Svitolina is set to play in a behind the doors event in Berlin in July. Halep is yet to publicly commit to playing any such event.
“My longest break before the lockdown has been of 3-4 weeks and [returning to competitions] was very difficult for me. You lose pace, you lose focus … and then physically, if you idle about for a whole week you’ve lost half a year,” news agency AGERPRES quoted the 28-year-old as saying.
“ I don’t know what others have done during this time, maybe some did training runs, maybe they did strength workouts, I don’t know, I can’t assume. But I feel it on my own skin that it will be a bit difficult for me. It matters a lot that I haven’t had official matches. You can train five hours a day for a whole year, if you are not on an official game, you’re out when you step on court … I mean, you’re not in the game at all. There’s a big difference.”
Despite her concerns, Halep’s time away from the sport has allowed her to appreciate things she wouldn’t usually have time to do due to the demanding travelling requirements of tennis. Speaking about the lockdown, she says it has enabled her to evaluate her time on the Tour as well as the future.
“I learned a lot from the two-month isolation. I realized that in the last 6 years I’ve been actually on a total lockdown,” she explains.
“It occurred to me that I have to change something in my life, in order to also develop on the emotional and personal side. The fact that I’ve been on lockdown for 6 years has helped me become world No. 1, but now, for me to have a happy life without tennis, I am slowly trying to experience new feelings, see something else.”
Halep started 2020 by winning 10 out of 12 matches played. Besides her triumph in Dubai, she also reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open before losing to Garbine Muguruza. Halep is one of four women to have already made more than $1 million in prize money this season.
Former No.1 Karolina Pliskova Hits Out At Men Worrying About Equal Pay In Tennis
The world No.4 explains why she personally doesn’t want equal pay on the tour, but criticises those who worry that women players might do so in the future.
Czech tennis star Karolina Pliskova has labelled men who voice opposition against equal pay as ‘super weak’ as she becomes the latest player to throw her backing behind the possibility of a merger of the two premier tennis Tour’s.
Pliskova, who is a former US Open finalist, spoke out about the topic when questioned by the PA Press Agency. In recent weeks there has been growing calls for the ATP and WTA to be merged into one. Support for the idea gained momentum when Roger Federer tweeted his support for it. However the heads of the two governing bodies have already been in discussions about working closer together in some capacity since the start of this year.
Although the prospect of a merger remains low due to the complex process that it would involve, both the ATP and WTA have vowed greater collaboration to help enhance the future of the sport. One of the main talking points behind the calls is pay. There is equal prize money at all of the grand slams, however, it does differ behind the men and women on the Tour. Last year six men earned more than $7 million in prize money compared to one on the WTA Tour (Ash Barty).
Weighing in on the topic, Pliskova has interestingly said that she is not interested in campaigning for her to be paid similar to her male counterparts. Arguing that the two genders should not be compared. However, she has voiced her frustration at those who are against the concept of equal pay.
“I don’t think so and I am not the one who wants it. But I don’t like the men who are complaining that we would get the same money. I think it is super weak from them that they complain we have the same money as them,” she said.
“The only time it is true is at grand slams. I understand they play longer, but they are men. They are stronger than us. I don’t see the reason why we should compare each other. I don’t need to have the same prize money as men. But to have the same chance to play on centre court or to have the same chance to be on TV, that should be possible with these changes.”
As of March 20th Pliskova has made $19,997,689 in prize money throughout her career, which is the 19th highest tally in the history of women’s tennis.
Speaking more specifically about a possible merger, the 28-year-old believes it would help enhance the women’s tour. Although she is staying cautious about the prospect of such a thing happening in the future.
“I think for the women’s tour it can only help. I don’t know exactly what they are discussing but if there is any chance to say yes, then I would say yes,” Pliskova said.
“It needs to be positive also for the ATP so they need to find a balance so it is a forward step for both. It might take a couple of years to get going. It will be different, but I don’t think for the players it would change that much. It would be a good step.”
Pliskova is currently ranked third in the WTA rankings and has won 16 WTA titles. She is set to return to action next week at the LiveScore Cup in Prague.
Injury Scare Fails To Derail Petra Kvitova From Winning ‘Bizarre’ All-Czech Tennis Event
The world No.12 speaks out about the unusual circumstances she was playing in earlier this week as she sheds light on a recent injury issue she has been dealing with.
During what was meant to be the first week of the French Open Petra Kvitova is still winning matches albeit in very different circumstances.
With professional tennis still halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the two-time Wimbledon champion was one of the headline acts at the CTS President’s Cup earlier this week. A Three-day event that features eight men and eight women taking part in a all-Czech tournament. Umpires and ball boys had to wear face masks and there was limited spacing for spectators to watch from the sidelines with organizers mindful of social distancing.
“The gloves, face masks, the fact nobody handed us the towels, no handshakes, that was definitely bizarre,” said Kvitova.
“And playing without people, the atmosphere was not exactly what we are used to.”
Despite the unusual circumstances, it failed to prevent Kvitova for winning the event on Thursday. During a rain-interrupted final she saw off Wimbledon quarter-finalist Karolina Muchova 6-3, 6-3. Earlier in the event she also scored wins over former world No.1 doubles player Kateřina Siniaková (7-5, 6-4) and Barbora Krejčíková (7-6, 6-2).
The trio of victories came only days after there was concern if Kvitova would be able to play at all. Leading into the tournament the Czech started to feel pain in her forearm, but was later given the all clear by her doctor. Speaking to reporters, she said the pain she felt was similar to what occurred this time last year when she was forced to withdraw from the French Open.
“Two days before the start of the tournament, my forearm started to stiffen, similar to last year before the French Open,” the 30-year-old explained.
“That’s why I didn’t train on Monday. I was waiting for Mr. Kolář’s verdict, but he said that I would be able to do it (play) in some way.”
Now her first taste of competitive tennis in over three months has concluded, Kvitova has relished the experience. It is still unclear as to when the WTA Tour will resume. At present the suspension is until July 31st. In recent days both the US Open and French Open have said they are optimistic that their events will be able to go ahead later this year in some capacity.
“Given the circumstances and the pandemic, it was a wonderful tournament,” Kvitova stated.
Whilst officials ponder when to restart the sport, Kvitova plans to take some time resting her hand in order to prevent aggravating it further.
“I’ll definitely feel my hand for a few days now, but I’ll take time off, there’s no hurry,” she concluded.
In the men’s final world No.450 Michael Vrbensky, who shocked top seed Jiri Vesely in the first round, won the title.
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