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Staff Writer

Nate

Walroth

      his week we were lucky to have Coco Gauff, 16-year-old sophomore, top 50 player, HEAD rising star and face of New Balance women's tennis check in with us via zoom from home (Delray Beach, Florida)! Special shoutout to the marketing team at HEAD, the proud racquet sponsor of Coco Gauff since 2018, for coordinating this zoom call during the early off-season.

There is something special about seeing a young person who has found his or her passion, dedicates themselves to it, and is able to achieve their lifelong dream. When the zoom call ended with Coco, I felt like I had just spoken with one of those uniquely special people.

Within a short time of chatting, the positive impact of her tight-knit family was evident. Having seen her appreciation for basketball through her social media, I was interested in learning where it came from. The family are huge hoop fans. Corey Gauff, her father, was a solid player back in his day.

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“It’s the perfect racquet for me. I feel like it gives me a lot of power and control at the same time. I’m a heavy hitter, so I don’t want the ball flying too far out. So, I like the control, but I don’t lose any pop on the serve either.”

Coco Gauff on the Head Graphene 360 Speed MP

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He played for Georgia State in the 90’s and taught the game to Coco and her two younger brothers early. “I played basketball until I was 13, so I played for a while. It was the last sport I gave up for tennis.” Coco hasn’t lost any love for the game and gets excited to talk about the game and players she enjoys watching.

She is often asked by her dad to come in for defense when he’s training the boys in the driveway. She admits her length and quickness can wreak havoc on the court. Not to mention, her competitiveness. Just as her brother’s cheer her on to be great, she takes great joy helping them reach their dreams.

 

Coco’s talent and future as potentially the next American great was first seen on the big stage, in 2018. The former USTA Clay Court National 12-and-under Champion (2014) had broken through again on the red stuff, this time winning the French Open junior title against Caty McNally. Coco hadn’t dropped a set until the finals!

She said this was around the time she began believing she could succeed at the highest level, against the best players in the world. It was no longer a vision. Coco credited her father for pushing and encouraging her along the way. Corey Gauff instilled the belief, competitive drive, and winning mentality she plays with at a young age.

After just two years on the WTA tour, a lot has changed in her world. Coco has won over 64% of her matches (47-26), made two fourth-round appearances at grand slams, and saw her brand grow immensely thanks to her play. A generational talent with charisma to match it are a couple factors that make her a marketing magnet. She is very bright, self-aware, and genuine…a package neither Head nor New Balance was going to pass on.

HEAD

 

Coco has used the Head Graphene 360 Speed MP for the majority of her career.

  • Head size: 100 square inches

  • Length: 27 inches

  • Balance: 4 points head-light

  • Swing-Weight: 317

  • Stiffness: 63

  • String Pattern: 16 x 19

“It’s the perfect racquet for me. I feel like it gives me a lot of power and control at the same time. I’m a heavy hitter, so I don’t want the ball flying too far out. So, I like the control, but I don’t lose any pop on the serve either.”

New Balance

Coco’s face lit up when talking about her budding relationship with her apparel sponsor for the past two years. It was interesting to hear how New Balance swept in and stole the young phenoms attention. They developed a strong relationship with her parents Corey and Candi, and were able to sign Coco when she was 14.

They believed in her to the utmost without applying too much pressure on the young teenager. She never felt uneasy, or uncomfortable with the New Balance team. She thinks they might have used a similar strategy to sign NBA superstar Kawhi Leonard…an athlete she really respects. “Kawhi is kind of quiet everyone knows, but I’ve gotten to meet him and we’ve talked. He doesn’t say much about basketball or ever mention his accomplishments, unless people ask about it. I want to be the same way. I want to let my play do the talking. I don’t talk a lot of tennis with people unless it’s something like this (laughs).”

 

New Balance also sold Coco on the rebranding they were doing. “They were ready to change the feel and vibe of the brand. They wanted to bring a more modern look and energy.” Coco saw this as a huge opportunity where she could grow with the brand. “I’m only 16-years-old, I know I’ll be changing a lot as I get older… it’ll be fun to grow with each other.”

Favorite McCoco Memory

“Winning the title together in Washington D.C. has to be one of them. We just have a lot of fun together when we play. Being around the same age, it’s been helpful.  We get to adjust to Tour life with each other during the beginning of our careers.”

 

“Also, this one time we went to an arcade center in Auckland after practice for a few hours…and that was awesome.”

 

As fans know, the two are both huge fans of Tik Tok…and enjoy making dances and post-match handshake celebrations. Bringing a new energy to the WTA. “Caty takes the time to memorize all the dances. I have her to teach me (laughs).”

Pre-match Routine/Nerves

“I listen to hype music before I play. It helps get me ready. Before I’m about to walk out (of the tunnel), I turn the volume all the way up. That’s actually the most nervous I get…when I walk out and hear the crowd for the first time. I miss that.”

“I listen to mainly Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and I love walking out to “ICON” by Jaden Smith. That’s been my go-to now for a while.”

Top 5 Favorite Athletes

Serena & Venus Williams (her idols)

Damian Lillard (her favorite hooper)

LeBron James

Kawhi Leonard

Simone Biles

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Favorite Shot (Question from Cam_Gober on Instagram)

“That’s a good question. I would have to say the serve or overhead. Who doesn’t like hitting an ace?  I’ve really been working on overheads and have been feeling good. Even if I’m off my back foot.”

What advice would you give your 11-year-old self? (Question from Renee_Tennis09 on Instagram)

“I would say have fun with it. That’s when tennis is most fun. And don’t take this in a bad way, but the results don’t matter. It’s about playing to get better. I don’t even remember any matches from then (laughs). 

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ONE-ON-ONE

WITH

One of tennis' brightest stars, Coco Gauff, sits down with Midwest Sports to discuss her career, how she's stayed sharp during the pandemic, her brand partnerships, and much more. 

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Midwest Sports is...

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