Coco Gauff exclusive: “This is the most relaxed I have ever been”
The 18-year-old American said reaching the final at Roland-Garros had convinced her she can win a Grand Slam title
At 18, Coco Gauff has already been through a lot of things on and off the court, from her stunning arrival on the scene in 2019 when she beat Venus Williams on her Wimbledon debut, to the pandemic, her speech against police brutality toward black people in the United States and then reaching her first Grand Slam final earlier this month at the French Open.
Earmarked as the next great champion in the women’s game, she has coped well with all the extra attention she has received and as she prepares to begin her Wimbledon campaign on Tuesday, she says she’s more relaxed than she’s ever been.
“I feel like, even before [the] French I was relaxed and now I think really has been the most relaxed,” she told Tennis Majors, “because I feel like I’m in this mindset where I’m just enjoying the point, enjoying when it’s 30-all, 5-all and not being afraid of that moment. I think (it’s important) when you enjoy it and you don’t look too far ahead and celebrate your little wins.
“I feel like I was getting out of first rounds and I didn’t even care. And, you know, there’s so many players I know that would kill to get to the first round of a slam. I was like, I need to really start appreciating this because life is so short. You never know when that life, or with injuries, you never know when it can be taken away from you. So I just feel like I’m in this mindset now where I’m really enjoying every little thing that I’m playing.”
Gauff – Roland-Garros final a huge confidence boost
Gauff said reaching her first Grand Slam final at Roland-Garros last month – where only Iga Swiatek stopped her – had been more of a proud moment than a disappointment, though it took her a couple of days to realise that.
“It’s done a lot for me,” she said. “Obviously, I feel super accomplished, with that result. It made me believe that I am capable of making a final and being one match away definitely makes you feel like you can hold the big trophy one day.
“So it gives me a lot of confidence and I feel like I’m still improving every day. So I don’t feel like that’s going to be the best tennis I ever play in my career. So the fact that I made a final then (is big). I hope that one day, you know, I’ll be holding the big one.
“I was very emotional immediately after. But even some days to come afterwards, it was not so much that I felt bad that I lost, but just because I know what I need to improve on. So I felt almost eager to get back on the court and practise and improve on it.
“So it wasn’t so much a disappointment. I think immediately, I was crying a lot, and I didn’t realise really that it was a Grand Slam final and what I just did until a couple of days later. It took me a while to process that and in the end I was really proud of myself.”
Seeded 12, Gauff opens her Wimbledon campaign on Tuesday against Elena-Gabriela Ruse of Romania.