In the mid-1990s a couple of young sisters took the world of tennis by storm. Now, more than two decades later, there is a new young darling of the tennis world and her name is Cori “Coco” Gauff.
The 15-year-old American qualified for Wimbledon just days prior to the start of the event and beat out her idol, Venus Williams, in the first round. Gauff left her mark, making it to the fourth round.
How Coco Gauff got to England
A native Georgian, whose parents moved with her to Florida for training, Gauff is not the youngest player to play at Wimbledon, although she is the youngest to have qualified by winning the qualification tourney just prior to the British championship. Others have earned their way by direct entry through their international rankings.
Gauff is the youngest to play in the ladies’ competition this year. And she is the youngest player to win the first round of ladies’ singles since 1991, let alone making it to the fourth round.
A junior Wimbledon competitor, one year younger than Gauff
One year Gauff’s junior is her friend, Linda Fruhvirtova, who turned 14 in May. She is the youngest competing on Wimbledon’s grass courts this year.
The Czech teenager just made her Grand Slam juniors debut at the French Open in May. She lost the opportunity for a Wimbledon quarterfinal in her third-round girls’ singles match.
An even younger junior
In 1994, Martina Hingis of Switzerland earned the Wimbledon girl’s junior title at the age of 13. Czech-born to a tennis-playing mother, and a tennis coach father, Hingis moved to Switzerland with her mom following her parent’s divorce.
After her Wimbledon junior win and turning 14 years old, Martina went pro. This struck a controversial cord prompting the Women’s Tennis Association to implement new rules prohibiting 14-year-olds from regular tour events and limiting the total number of tournaments for 15-17 year-olds.
Not only was Martina the youngest girl’s junior champion, but just prior to her 16th birthday she also was the youngest player ever as part of a team to win the ladies’ pairs title, alongside the then 31-year-old Helena Sukova, in 1996.
Have any other teens ever qualified for play in Wimbledon ladies’ competition?
As previously mentioned, Gauff is the youngest player to “qualify” for Wimbledon play since the beginning of the open era in 1968, but other young players have gotten there through direct entry. Coco is the 12th youngest to have competed in women’s singles since ’68.
In 2009, England’s Laura Robson also played in the women’s division at the age of 15, having won the junior girl’s the year prior. She made it to the fourth round on her home country court in 2013, and the third round of mixed doubles there in 2014.
Young men at Wimbledon
At the age of 17, Boris “Boom Boom” Becker became the youngest men’s Wimbledon title earner. That was in 1985. He defended his title the following year. Becker is the only player to have won two men’s singles championships at Wimbledon before turning 20, but he wasn’t quite done. He won again in 1989.
Following his illustrious playing career, Becker entered the world of coaching amongst other things. He was Wimbledon champ Novak Djokovic’s coach from 2013–2016, aiding in two of Djokovic’s four Wimbledon’s titles.
Other young Wimbledon’s men’s champions include Wilfred Baddeley at the age of 19 in 1891. He won a total of three singles championships on the grass, and alongside his twin brother, Herbert, won a men’s doubles title there.
In 1927, Sidney Wood played in Wimbledon’s men’s singles at the age of 15. But he didn’t win the men’s title until 1931, at the age of 19.
What’s next for Coco Gauff and the Williams sisters?
Venus Williams turned pro in 1994, at the age of 14. So did her younger sister, Serena, one year later. Venus earned her first win at Wimbledon in 2000. Serena’s first Wimbledon title came in 2002, edging out her sister for the win that year.
Both have Olympic medals along with their many accomplishments and are working toward the 2020 American team.
As for Coco, whether she will try out for next year’s Olympics is unknown. And, just when Coco will earn her first Wimbledon title remains to be seen, but we know it is coming.