Teen tennis phenom Cori “Coco” Gauff set off alarm bells when she said on Friday she was “very depressed” a couple of years ago while experiencing success at the sport.
Gauff, 16, revealed in a telling social media post that she nearly stepped away from the game just before she rocketed into orbit as a record-setting teen who defeated her idol, Venus Williams, at Wimbledon in 2019.
In a message penned for “Behind the Racquet” that Gauff reposted for her nearly 700K Instagram followers, Gauff indicated she was in a dark place trying to live up to expectations. She also said she was not prepared to reconcile the peripheral things that came with instant fame.
“Throughout my life, I was always the youngest to do things, which added hype that I didn’t want. It added this pressure that I needed to do well fast. Once I let that all go, that’s when I started to have the results I wanted,” Gauff wrote.
“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,” Gauff added. “I realized I needed to start playing for myself and not other people. For about a year I was really depressed. That was the toughest year for me so far.”
The struggle was real “right before” Wimbledon last year.
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Repost from @behindtheracquet • “Throughout my life, I was always the youngest to do things, which added hype that I didn’t want. It added this pressure that I needed to do well fast. Once I let that all go, 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. That was the toughest year for me so far. Even though I had, it felt like there weren’t many friends there for me. When you are in that dark mindset you don’t look on the bright side of things too often, which is the hardest part. I don’t think it had much to do with tennis, maybe just about juggling it all. I knew that I wanted to play tennis but didn’t know how I wanted to go about it. It went so far that I was thinking about possibly taking a year off to just focus on life. Choosing not to obviously was the right choice but I was close to not going in that direction. I was just lost. 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. 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. Now, when I’m on court, I am just really thankful to be out there. Personally for me, I like playing for more than myself. One of the biggest things is to continue breaking barriers. At the same time I don’t like being compared to Serena or Venus. 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. 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.” @cocogauff Go to behindtheracquet.com for extended
Gauff’s parents, Corey and Candi Gauff, told the New York Times that success over older girls in the junior tournaments created unwanted tensions and a solitary existence on the girl’s tennis tour.
“That led to loneliness at the tournaments, which leads to sadness, so for a period of time she was unhappy,” Candi Gauff told the Times on Saturday. “I don’t want to say the word ‘jealousy,’ but it was a spirit of, ‘Why is this young girl winning?’ So she was isolated.”
Flip the page to see what Gauff’s father saw in his daughter at this critica,l life-changing juncture in her life.