When 15-year-old American sensation Coco Gauff faces adverse situations on the tennis court, she recalls words of wisdom from her grandfather, Eddie Odom.
“My whole life, he’s saying, ‘Never say die,’ " Gauff said of her grandfather, a former minor league ballplayer and ex-teammate of two-time All-Star outfielder Dusty Baker. "Ever since I was younger, I would hear that. That’s kind of stuck in my head, even when the matches are tough.”
In a short sample-size, Gauff already shows a tremendous will to win. After defeating all-time great Venus Williams for her first career Grand Slam win at Wimbledon earlier this summer, the teen defeated Slovakia’s Magdaléna Rybáriková and Slovenia’s Polona Hercog before falling to eventual champion Simona Halep in the fourth round.
On Tuesday in Flushing Meadows, Gauff showed her mettle again, as she lost the first set to 18-year-old Russian Anastasia Potapova 3-6, before winning the final two sets, 6-2, 6-4.
What Gauff said after her first-round win in Queens illustrates how special she is off the court.
“The platform that I’ve been blessed again [with] is really amazing,” said Gauff, who will face Hungary’s Timea Babos in Thursday’s second-round action. “The amount of people and kids especially that come up to me saying I inspire them is honestly, I guess, better than any match I could win. Just to know that I inspire another kid maybe to pick up a racket or go through something they’re facing at school. The amount of DMs I got on social media, also. I just hope I can continue this, continue to inspire. … What I do on court is great, but what really matters is what happens off court, the people who you affect.”
Displaying both maturity and a humbleness, Gauff immediately thanked those in attendance in New York City for powering her victory over Potapova.
“The crowd really helped me the whole match,”Gauff said. "Like, it was really a great atmosphere to play in and a great experience for me.”