Coco Gauff on wanting to win TEN Grand Slams, living at home with her parents despite $15M prize money – and how she’ll go all the way at Wimbledon

Coco Gauff on wanting to win TEN Grand Slams, living at home with her parents despite $15M prize money - and how she'll go all the way at Wimbledon


When I first met Coco Gauff in 2019, the 15-year-old talked about her exams, her parents and her ambition to be the best tennis player of all-time.

She had just qualified for Wimbledon and was about to face her hero Venus Williams in the first round. Her eyes seemed wide with wonder, yet narrowed with focus all at the same time.


It was clear this articulate teenager was something special, but no-one was ready for the sporting and cultural phenomenon that was about to be unleashed.

Five years later, we meet again on the same day, the Saturday before Wimbledon, to reflect on that extraordinary Championships debut and what has happened since.

Gauff is now a Grand Slam champion and has transcended tennis, ever since as a 16-year-old she passionately addressed a crowd outside Delray Beach city hall in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

In 2019 she was in training gear, but now Gauff is dressed like the superstar she has become — cascading braids dyed blonde just last week, a yellow top thrown over one shoulder and that ubiquitous athlete’s accessory, the bucket hat.

Gauff talks about how her career goals have changed, why she is finally ready to move out of her parents’ house and how looking back to that time five years ago helped her win her first Grand Slam title, last year’s US Open.

But first, that summer of 2019 and Gauff begins the story on Florida’s gulf coast.



‘I lost first round in qualifying in Bonita springs, a 100k tournament, and Mom and Dad were like, ‘OK, you need to figure out what you’re going to do’ and then this happened!’ she says.

‘I remember feeling super confident going into Wimbledon qualifiers that I was going to make it to the main draw. I drew the first seed in the first round and won and the other two matches were kind of a blur.

‘Then obviously the Venus match was insane and that was the moment I thought, ‘Maybe my dreams are closer than I realised’.’ She was on the cover of teen Vogue a few months later and her charisma, ability and vow to ‘change the world with her racket’ enchanted the public.

‘You see those movies about people’s life changing overnight and you don’t think it will happen to you, but it did,’ she says.

‘I didn’t think my story was going to be so captivating for the world to watch, but it was and people loved me for it. I loved that people had joy in watching me play.’

Gauff seemed like a kid in a hurry in 2019, but her rise towards the top of the sport has been measured. Her ranking has progressed each year from 2019 — 69, 48, 22, 7, 3. So far this year she has nudged up to No 2.

Would 15-year-old Coco have been happy with what her 20-year-old self has achieved?

‘I think she would,’ Gauff replies. ‘My goal was to win a Slam as a teenager and to qualify for Tokyo 2021. Literally after I lost in that fourth round at Wimbledon I set those goals.

‘I’m really happy with how I have managed everything. It wasn’t easy.’

That last comment is a hint at the enormous expectation which has become part of Gauff’s life. She struggled in the first three Slams of the year in 2023, with the nadir being a first-round loss here. And Gauff reveals how that lowest moment at Wimbledon made her look back to her debut.

‘After that first Wimbledon I felt a lot of pressure,’ she says. ‘I felt almost suffocated by expectations, like I wasn’t playing for myself.

‘It changed after losing here first round last year. I realised this mentality wasn’t sustainable. I felt if I continued like this it would make tennis unenjoyable. I realised I had to worry about myself and not the other expectations people have for me.

‘I went back to the mentality I had when I was 15 — there was only one match I was nervous for and that was to play Venus and that was because it was Venus, not because it was Wimbledon. But second round, third, fourth I was never nervous and I feel like that now.

There are obviously nerves but not the suffocating nerves where you’re like, ‘If I lose what’s going to happen?’. It’s more like, ‘This is really exciting, I hope I do well’.’

With her new-found attitude, Gauff should have a serious shot at the title this year. Her nemesis is Iga Swiatek, but grass is by far the world No 1’s weakest surface. World No 3 Aryna Sabalenka has a shoulder injury and back-to-back finalist Ons Jabeur is struggling for form. Lifting the Venus Rosewater dish would be quite the way for Gauff to begin her 20s.

It feels as if the sport which gave Gauff so much with one hand has snatched her childhood away with the other, but she insists that is not the case.

‘I was definitely still able to be a kid,’ she says. ‘I probably matured faster than a lot of people, but I think my parents did a good job of trying to make it as relaxed as possible, set up an environment where I could still be a kid and surround me with people who respected that.’

It has helped that she still lives at home with her parents, despite banking £12million ($15m) in prize money and far more in endorsements. But that will change as she is preparing to buy her own place.

‘Not for long though!’ she says when asked about living at home. ‘I’ll still be in Delray, not far, just not at home. I’m in the process.’

So, has Gauff revised her expectations since that 15-year-old, in the same tone as she said she was hoping for As in her exams, told me: ‘I want to be the best of all-time, better than Serena’?

Gauff has indeed recalibrated, but unlike almost any other player is happy to talk numbers.

‘I want to be the best version of myself,’ she replies. ‘Watching Serena I was like, ‘There’s no-one going to be greater than her’.

‘I definitely want to at least get to double digits in Slams. I just want to be the best me, try to win as many Slams as possible and see where life takes me.’