Cori “Coco” Gauff is just now beginning to process what it feels like to be at the next level of international tennis stardom.
“If somebody told me this three weeks ago, I probably wouldn’t believe it,” the 15-year-old said. “but I think just putting in the work definitely raised my confidence because I knew how hard I worked and I knew shots I could make and what was possible.”
Gauff lost to No. 7 Simona Halep in straight sets in the fourth round of Wimbledon on Monday.
Halep, who was the world No. 1 in January, advances to the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-3 win. The 27-year-old Romanian has one major title: the French Open in 2018.
After becoming the youngest player to reach Wimbledon through qualifying, Gauff entered the tournament ranked No. 313 in the world. By the end of the tournament, she will be inside the top 150. Wimbledon was her Grand Slam main draw singles debut.
She’ll return home to Delray Beach, Florida, as a celebrity.
After the match, Gauff spoke about how the world has reacted to her surprising run and about former first lady Michelle Obama tweeting about her success.
Her forehand was a shot heard ’round the world
She’s been laser-focused on tennis this week and is only now able to process the ways in which she’s inspired the world.
“It’s amazing. I kind of don’t know how the rest of the world reacted, because I’m still in London. Even with all this going on, I still felt like I was in a bubble, because I’ve just been going to the tournament-hotel-tournament-hotel, because I’ve been finishing so late,” she said.
But the most important outpouring of support will come from those closest to her.
“I’m excited to go home now and see my family,” Gauff said. “I saw a video and they were saying they were so proud of me, so that kind of makes me happy.”
Accolades from her idols have been pouring in
Former first lady Michelle Obama took note of Gauff’s success, tweeting “Coco is terrific!” during her victory against Polona Hercog in the previous round.
Gauff said that one “meant a lot to me because I’ve looked up to her for a long time, and she’s such a role model, and I was really shocked. I wasn’t expecting that. That was probably one of the least expected.”
Pioneering tennis icon Billie Jean King tweeted, “Your journey is far from over, @CocoGauff. Looking forward to watching your future successs on the court and off. #BigFan.”
Gauff has a reply to her new fans.
“I hope they learned about me, that I’m a fighter and I’ll never give up,” she said. “And I hope they learned from me that anything is possible if you work hard and just continue to dream big.”
Due to Women’s Tennis Association age restrictions to prevent burnout in young players, Gauff can’t play in as many tournaments as she wants, like an older player can. She’s eligible for up to seven more professional tournaments before March, when she turns 16.
But that still means there are plenty of opportunities for the next Coco fix.
The US Open, which starts next month, is one tournament where Gauff could appear.