Coco Gauff is not your typical teenager. Her name was heard across the globe at just 15 years old when she defeated Venus Williams in the first round of Wimbledon in 2019. Now, the 16-year-old superstar is opening up about the impact that the pressures surrounding her fast rise to prominence at such a young age had on her mental state.
In an essay for Behind the Racquet, Gauff explained that depression led her to question her career. “Throughout my life, I was always the youngest to do things, which added hype that I didn’t want,” she said. “It added this pressure that I needed to do well fast. Once I let that all go, that [was] when I started to have the results I wanted.”
“I just found myself not enjoying what I loved.”
She said that before Wimbledon “around 2017/18” was a low point, and she was feeling “really depressed” for a year. Fans saw a hardworking teenager paving the way and inspiring young girls, but Gauff was dealing with balancing the pressure of it all. “I was struggling to figure out if this was really what I wanted. I always had the results so that wasn’t the issue, I just found myself not enjoying what I loved. I realized I needed to start playing for myself and not other people,” she said, adding that she even contemplated taking a year off.
“I was just lost,” Gauff said. In fact, the challenges she faced off the court helped her face the noise on the court. “It took many moments sitting, thinking and crying. I came out of it stronger and knowing myself better than ever. Everyone asks me how I stay calm on court and I think it’s because I accepted who I am after overcoming low points in my life. Now, when I’m on court, I am just really thankful to be out there.”
Gauff has looked up to Venus and Serena Williams her whole life, and now she’s growing accustomed to inspiring young Black girls to pick up a racquet the way they inspired her. “In the beginning I thought I had to be perfect, but I’ve done a lot of soul searching and moved past it. Since doing that I’ve been having much more fun practicing and playing matches,” she said. We’ve loved watching her play over the last few years and can’t wait to see how she paves her own way in the future.