While you chat, Cori Coco Gauff (Atlanta, United States; 18 years old) stares into your eyes and from time to time cannot contain a laugh. He has just come of age, but his speech, his game and his looseness behind the scenes show that he is way ahead. Three years ago she shocked the world by becoming the youngest tennis player in history to reach the final draw at Wimbledon, following in the footsteps of other child prodigies such as Hingis, Capriati or Seles. Her progression has guided her towards the elite of the circuit, but she is not satisfied. At the age of 16, she was one of the female leaders during the anti-racist protests of the Black Lives Matter, projecting a speech that went viral. And it continues, with the idea of transcending.
Ask. She recently said that she did not want to be known only as a tennis player. Exactly what or who does she want to become?
Response. I just want to be a person that people can identify with. Obviously, I want to do things well on the tennis court. There are many athletes who probably achieve impressive results, but then the personal treatment is another story… I want to be known as a great tennis player and also as a good person.
P. So do you want to have some impact on the world?
R. Of course. I think with this platform, if I keep winning bigger things I’ll have a chance to have some impact; maybe not in everyone, but in some people. And that is enough.
P. Many say that you are walking the same path that Serena and Venus Williams did. Is that your goal?
R. Well, my goal is to be the best version of myself. Of course I want to win a big tournament, but I try not to compare myself to them. The comparison is an honor, but I will never be like them. I will try to be myself.
P. Today, athletes are also great icons. To what extent is your voice important? Is he aware of the importance of what he says and does?
R. I would say that I don’t fully realize it, but I do, and I know that some may give importance to what I say, but sometimes I don’t know what the impact will be. For example, in 2020, when the Black Lives Matter movement was at its hottest, I gave some kind of talk at my house and I thought I was going to stay there, and suddenly I see it’s on CNN, ESPN and everywhere. I think a lot of times I don’t realize how much attention people pay to what I have to say.
P. Recently she was very critical of the law Don’t say gay [’No digas gay’, que prohíbe hablar en las aulas sobre temas de orientación sexual e identidad de género hasta los nueve años en Florida]. What do you think that people still think like that?
R. I do not know. I was always taught to respect and love people regardless of their nationality, sexual orientation, religion, race or whatever. You have to treat people with respect; If someone respects you, they deserve respect. There are people who still think that way, but I think it comes from what your parents teach you. If the parents have good values, the children will have good values. My parents taught me from a very young age to respect differences, that there was nothing wrong with being different.
P. What is your opinion of politics, in general?
R. It’s something I’m still getting close to. Now that I have turned 18, I have a greater responsibility in terms of being informed. This year I will be able to vote; but well, first I would have to register to be able to vote… [risas]. I am more aware that I should get more information from the right places, now that I am 18 years old. For now, I just want everyone to get along. [risas].
P. And what do you think of the feminist movement? Do you consider yourself a feminist?
R. Yes. I think that men, women and everyone in between should be given the same opportunities to do what they want in life. I know there are those who still think that women should stay in the kitchen. I have to thank my father. Also my mother, but especially my father, because he always raised me to be strong and independent, without gender roles. I consider myself a feminist, especially thanks to him, and I believe that everyone has the right to prosper regardless of their gender.
My parents taught me to respect differences. The next generation will be even better
P. Today black people continue to die at the hands of the police. What is happening? What do you think of the situation of black people, not only in the United States but in the entire world?
R. I think that, without a doubt, social networks have helped people to be more aware of the problem. My father has had some experience with the police… It’s not something that has suddenly started happening now, but more people are reporting it, and people can see it. Social media helps put pressure on some to know that they have to behave in the right way. Unfortunately, it is a problem that still happens today and the fact that you ask me this question makes people more aware of what is happening. It all really starts with how you are taught as a child. I think of my generation and I believe that the next one will be even better, because there will be more people teaching these values to their children.
P. Yannick Noah says that police violence is an issue that is only addressed by blacks, African-Americans. Do you share it?
R. Sure. I would say that in the past it was an issue that only black people dealt with, but in 2020 my grandmother, who is 70 years old and has lived through the civil rights movement, told me that now everyone was getting involved in the cause , so I would say that it is an issue that more and more people are talking about and speaking their minds. I think before it was uncomfortable for them to talk about what was going on, but now, from 2020 to 2022, I have seen people from very different backgrounds talking about this issue.
P. Osaka, Azarenka and other players have spoken about mental health. Are we giving this issue the importance it deserves?
R. I think in today’s world people pay more attention to it. I think it’s a very difficult topic to talk about, because not everyone feels comfortable talking about it, and of course I congratulate Naomi and Victoria for their initiative. In my case, I don’t feel at all comfortable talking about my mental health in the media, so I have a lot of respect for the players who have dared to do it, who have opened up to the world. There will always be someone who attacks you for it, but they have opened the door to being able to talk about it. The brain is in a way a muscle and the mind is probably the most important thing in your whole body, and if it doesn’t do its job, if you’re not happy, it will definitely affect everything else.
More and more people talk about police violence against black people, now there is greater implication
P. Do you think that young athletes like you are sufficiently protected?
R. I think the WTA circuit is doing well. I have been offered assistance from psychologists and mental health experts, they are resources that they make available to us. I personally think that the WTA are doing the best they can. They can’t force anyone to speak, so I think they’re definitely protecting the players with the age rules. You can’t protect everyone from everything; For example, on social media, that’s why I think the WTA as an organization is doing the best it can, dealing with all the negativity that is thrown at the players.
P. How do you imagine yourself in 10 years?
R. In 10 years, I will be 28. I hope to continue on the circuit, in good health, happy, and above all much more mature.
P. Many people believe that you will be number one. Do you think you can achieve it?
R. Yes, of course it is one of my goals. I believe in myself, I think I can achieve it, but I don’t have any date for it to happen. I hope it happens when I play. It is definitely one of my goals.
P. You say that Roger Federer is the best. What do you admire most about him?
R. I would say the person who is off track. I have had the opportunity to talk to him about tennis and life [está integrada en la agencia de representación del suizo], and he’s always been super nice to me since I was 13 or 14 years old. We all know that he is a great tennis player, with an incredible serve, an incredible backhand, how he cuts the ball… But as a person he is also incredible.
P. Do you think it’s the biggest?
R. In my opinion, yes, but all three [él, Nadal y Djokovic] they are the biggest. Technically, right now, on paper, Rafa is the one with the most Grand Slams, but for me it’s all three. Roger is my favourite, but because I have a certain personal connection with him. But I think he can’t compare. Tennis… There is no other sport that has the three greatest players playing at the same time, in the same era. It is something for which we have to be very grateful.
P. You were only 15 years old when you won your first match at Wimbledon. What have you learned along the way?
R. Let’s see, I’ve learned that you can’t always win. I have also learned to adapt to the circuit and to play week in, week out, and to enjoy small victories. Anybody loses more tournaments than he wins in a season, or it usually does. There are people like Iga [Swiatek, la actual número no]who are winning everything, but normal people lose more tournaments than they win [risas]. You have to enjoy the small victories. In your case, you win more than you lose [risas]. I hope to get to that one day.
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