Before her sensational debut in Wimbledon’s main draw, 15-year-old American tennis player Cori “Coco” Gauff had to win some qualifying matches just to get there.
And before she could even do that, she had to take a late-night school test.
So far Gauff has been passed all her trials in London, stunning her idol Venus Williams, 6-4 6-4, on Monday in the first round on the All England Club’s No. 1 court.
But the Florida teen had more academic pursuits to take care of last week: A science test hours before she’d wake up to play one of the three qualifying matches she’d have to win at Roehampton just to make the main tournament at iconic Wimbledon.
She says only one of her teachers even knew she played tennis. The rest will know now.
“I ended up getting a B on the exam, which was pretty good, considering I took it at 11 at night and I have to wake up the next day for a match,” Gauff told CNN’s Christina Macfarlane on Saturday, two days before she’d play Williams.
“After my science test, I guess some of my teachers saw (an) interview. Before that … only one teacher knew I play tennis, and I don’t think they knew I was pro.
“And now all of them except one know. … They’re all cheering me on.”
Her rise hasn’t come out of nowhere — she was one of the world’s most highly regarded junior tennis players. But the story about her teachers and her quiz shows just how fresh her transition to the pro life is.
Her mother, Candi Gauff, told CNN’s “New Day” on Tuesday that the goal until now has been to give her as normal a life as possible.
“We try to compartmentalize, and keeping school and her tennis life separate was important to us,” Candi Gauff said.
She has risen quickly
Gauff, who is now scheduled to face 30-year-old Russian Magdalena Rybarikova in the second round Wednesday, is the 12th youngest overall to play in the Wimbledon main draw, but the youngest to come through qualifying.
Having beaten Williams, she also is the youngest player to win a singles match at Wimbledon since Jennifer Capriati in 1991.
She’s been raising her profile in recent years, making a US Open junior final in 2017, and then winning the French Open girl’s championship last year.
This year, she became the youngest woman to win a grand slam qualifying match in the French Open.
Her current 313th WTA singles ranking has climbed sharply from 874 eight months ago.
Defeating her idol was bittersweet, her mom says
Gauff told the BBC that she cried after defeating Williams.
“I don’t really know how to feel, this is the first time I’ve cried after a match, after winning,” Gauff told the BBC.
She added: “I never thought this would happen. I’m living my dream right now, not many people get to say that.”
Emotions were mixed, her mother told CNN.
“Of course, when you’re a competitor, when you go out there, your job is to win,” Candi Gauff said.
“But at the same time, you’re looking at a person (in Venus Williams) who paved the way for young black girls, or young girls in general, to play the sport.
“And so (Coco) was grateful and humble at the opportunity to play one of her idols. So I think she was very grateful, but also ecstatic that she won.”