By: Ben Raby (www.twitter.com/benraby31)
Coco Gauff admits that she had her doubts. With age restrictions limiting the amount of WTA tournaments a 15-year-old could enter as a wild card, Gauff wondered if she would have an opportunity to compete again on Tour before the U.S. Open.
Those concerns were put to rest Friday when the WTA Tour confirmed that Gauff had earned direct entry into the Citi Open qualifying draw based on her ranking.
“I’m excited that I get to play here,” Gauff said Friday. “I’m glad and I hope that this preparation [for the U.S. Open] will go well.”
Gauff faces fellow American Maegan Manasse at 2 p.m. Saturday on Stadium Court. The winner will play again on Sunday with a berth in the Citi Open main draw at stake.
Gauff seemingly became an overnight sensation earlier this summer as she became the youngest player to reach the Round of 16 at Wimbledon since 1991. Along the way, she beat her idol and five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams.
“It wasn’t just how amazing her play was,” said MDE Tennis Chairman Mark Ein, “but how she composed herself, how hard she fought and how gracious she was.”
Gauff played multiple matches on Centre Court at the All-England Club and earned congratulatory messages from the likes of Joel Embiid, Billie Jean King and Michelle Obama.
Not bad for the Delray Beach, Florida, native who at this time last year was preparing for the Junior U.S. Open.
“It’s been a big change for me,” she said of life after her run at Wimbledon. “I’ve been recognized at the airport, at the movie theatres, almost everywhere I’ve been. But I’m glad that people recognize who I am.”
Even before Wimbledon, Gauff has widely been regarded as a rising star within the tennis community. In 2017, she reached the U.S. Open Girls Final as a 13-year-old and last year she captured the Junior French Open crown at Roland Garros.
Now she’s quickly learning what it takes to win as a professional. She arrives in Washington ready for the next step in what could be an incredible tennis journey. She also arrives with the confidence to build off her Wimbledon success.
“I grew a lot as a player and also as a person,” said of the experience in London. “It was a great learning experience for me- not just for me as a tennis player but for me as Coco.
“I learned that I’m capable of things I didn’t think I was capable of. And I learned that I have a pretty good fighting spirit in me too.”