On Monday, 15-year-old Cori “Coco” Gauff defeated five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in the first round of the tournament, becoming the youngest woman to win a main-draw Wimbledon match since Jennifer Capriati beat defending champion Martina Navratilova in 1991.
Gauff’s skill level has long been out of proportion to her age, a fact increasingly obvious in the world of tennis.
Not only did Gauff upset her idol, who is more than twice her age, but she did so in spectacular fashion, eliminating Williams in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
“I don’t really know how to feel,” Gauff said in an interview with the BBC. “This is the first time I’ve cried after a match, after winning.”
The tennis prodigy entered her Wimbledon debut ranked 313th by the Women’s Tennis Association, while Williams entered 44th. Gauff had never played in a Grand Slam event. Williams has played in 16 Grand Slam finals.
“I never thought this would happen,” Gauff told the BBC. “I’m living my dream right now; not many people get to say that.”
She got to Monday’s match by advancing through qualifying in London last week, a run that included straight set wins over top-seeded Aliona Bolsova and No. 19 seed Greet Minnen. That made Gauff the youngest player to advance to Wimbledon’s main draw via qualifying.
After clinching the berth last week, Gauff said it would be “amazing” to play either Williams sister in the first round of Wimbledon, according to WTAtennis.com.
Gauff’s tennis career accelerated when she was 8 years old after her family moved from Atlanta to Delray Beach, Fla., where she still lives. In 2017, when she was 13, she became the youngest player to reach a U.S. Open junior final. Last year at the French Open, she became the youngest female to win a Grand Slam qualifying match.
As with Venus and Serena Williams, Gauff’s father, Corey, has taken an active role in coaching his daughter. Corey Gauff played basketball at Georgia State; Cori Gauff’s mother, Candi, competed in track and field at Florida State University.
The couple cheered from the stands at the All-England Club Monday as they watched their daughter take down one of the all-time tennis greats, a player whom the family credits with paving the path for other young, black, female tennis players, according to Time.
Cori Gauff told the BBC after the match that when Williams shook her hand, she told the 15-year old, “congratulations and to keep going.”
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her,” Gauff said.