Coco Gauff reveals she almost walked away from tennis while dealing with depression
Coco Gauff became a sensation in the tennis world in 2019, complete with precocious showings at Wimbledon (fourth round) and the US Open (third round) as a 15-year-old.
But it took a lot to reach that point, wrote Gauff, who turned 16 last month, in a post on Behind The Racket. The Florida native revealed she'd been depressed "for about a year" leading up to that breakout Wimbledon showing and contemplated stepping away from the game for a year.
"Throughout my life, I was always the youngest to do things, which added hype that I didn’t want," she wrote. "It added this pressure that I needed to do well fast. Once I let that all go, that when I started to have the results I wanted.
"Right before Wimbledon, going back to around 2017/18, I was struggling to figure out if this was really what I wanted. I always had the results so that wasn’t the issue, I just found myself not enjoying what I loved. I realized I needed to start playing for myself and not other people. For about a year I was really depressed."
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Coco Gauff hits to Timea Babos during the second round of the 2019 US Open. (Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran, USA TODAY Sports)
Gauff wrote she felt friendless and thought dropping tennis temporarily would help. She specifically recalled waking up one day and not wanting to practice.
"Choosing not to (step away) obviously was the right choice but I was close to not going in that direction. I was just lost," Gauff wrote. "I was confused and overthinking if this was what I wanted or what others did. It took many moments sitting, thinking and crying. I came out of it stronger and knowing myself better than ever."
Gauff's big moment came last summer when she defeated Venus Williams during the opening round at Wimbledon (she defeated Williams again at the 2020 Australian Open, where she reached the fourth round). As a young black woman, she lends herself to comparisons of the Williams sisters — her idols.
Don't go there just yet, she said.
"First, I am not at their level yet. I always feel like it’s not fair to the Williams sisters to be compared to someone who is just coming up," Gauff wrote. "It just doesn’t feel right yet, I still look at them as my idols. With all their accolades I shouldn’t be put in the same group yet. Of course I hope to get to where they are but they are the two women that set the pathway for myself, which is why I can never be them."
Gauff is becoming accustomed to the idea of being a role model, though. She thanked her family and her circle of friends for support.
"Everyone asks me how I stay calm on court and I think it’s because I accepted who I am after overcoming low points in my life," Gauff wrote. "Now, when I’m on court, I am just really thankful to be out there."
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