Cori “Coco” Gauff is still a teenager, but her legend precedes her. The first story I ever heard involving the American prodigy was about her serving incomprehensible heat while she was barely a teenager. Soon enough there were official figures to back that up. Last year at the Wimbledon junior tournament, Gauff, 14, broke 120 mph on a serve in her quarterfinal match.
That wasn’t just a feat within her age group. It would’ve been good for the third-fastest serve in the entire Wimbledon women’s tournament that year. The only two to serve faster were Serena and Venus Williams, who hit 125 and 123 mph, respectively.
Today, almost exactly one year and three tough rounds of qualifying later, a 15-year-old Gauff arrived in the grownup draw at Wimbledon, facing the elder of those two big-serving legends, in the very first round. Venus is now 39 years old, ranked No. 44 in the world and unseeded in this year’s tournament. But she’s still Venus Williams, standing on her best surface, at the tournament where she won five of her seven majors. Here’s how that played out:
“I had to tell myself to stay calm, I’d never played on a court so big. I had to remind myself that the lines are the same size,” Gauff said after her 6-4, 6-4 upset, her first-ever victory at a major. There will be more coming, and it would be difficult to design a first-time win with more built-in narrative firepower.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her,” Gauff said of Venus, minutes after leaving the court. “I told her she was so inspiring and I’ve always wanted to tell her that but I’ve never had the guts to before.”