The Extraordinary Teen Wisdom of Coco Gauff

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Photo by Harjanto Sumali

Bill Simons

GONE WITH THE WIND: Many stars at Indian Wells made it through the first weekend. But plenty of other big names faltered, including Stefanos Tsitsipas, Casper Ruud, Matteo Berrettini, Dominic Thiem, Denis Shapovalov, Diego Schwartzman, Grigor Dimitrov, Max Cressy, Victoria Azarenka, Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens, Belinda Bencic and Danielle Collins.

IN ADMIRATION OF A BOOKWORM: After being asked what she admires most in her rival Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka said, “The fact that she reads books.” The Pole is one of the foremost bookworms on the circuit. Our favorite reference to worms came one soggy year at Wimbledon when Mary Carillo explained a bad bounce on Centre Court by contending, “A worm probably came up for air.”

BEING NO. 3 IS NOT HAVING TO SAY YOU’RE SORRY: When asked what it was like to be within the top five, Jessica Pegula said, “it’s weird, it’s weird. I don’t know. It’s so weird to think that I’m like 3 in the world…It’s just weird. I don’t even like to say it. It’s awkward…I guess it’s a good thing.”

COCO GAUFF – THE ONLY WAY TO MOVE FORWARD IS TO HAVE CONVERSATIONS: Coco Gauff has a lot going for her. She’s young. Her face lights up rooms. She’s popular in the locker room and she’s rich, with a net worth of $6 million. And, yes, she has her own sneaker commercials. 

Last year she reached the French Open final and became the No. 1 doubles player. Now she’s No. 6 in singles.

But perhaps her greatest quality is her wisdom. The Floridian, who turns 19 on Monday, was asked about the initiatives in her home state to prohibit certain books in libraries, limit AP Black History and reconfigure a Sarasota college. 

Gauff replied, “I think history is history. Education is education. I know in Florida there’s a lot of conversation about that, but…I feel when you don’t teach kids history, they’re bound to repeat it. I grew up to learn from ‘the goods’ and ‘the bads,’ in brown history. You can learn a lot from that. Obviously I don’t really like what’s going on, but the only way to move forward is to have conversations. 

“You’d be really surprised when you have conversations with kids, even at a young age – what they can take from it and how they can apply it to the future. I see this with my brothers.

“I feel adults as they get older think kids can’t handle certain information, but you have to remember they have a clean slate and they’re looking at things. What we teach them can help shape who they’re going to be…If we want to have good morals and hopefully a better history in the future, we have to teach even the dark parts of it, in an age-appropriate way, of course.

“When I was going to school, my grandparents and my parents never really hid anything from me. If I had questions, they always answered them truthfully. That’s important so when we have those conversations, younger kids aren’t scared to ask those questions…because we have guarded them so much.”

THE PAIN AND PERSPECTIVE OF JESSICA PEGULA: Last Spring Jessica Pegula’s mother was suddenly hospitalized and nearly died. Pegula’s whole family circled around and were at the hospital non-stop for days, until her mom finally improved some. 

Then, when Pegula was in Australia, Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills, which her parents own, suffered his horrific injury. Pegula then wrote an open, thoughtful essay on the experience. She expressed her gratitude to many. 

Today, Inside Tennis asked Jesse how these rough experiences had impacted her – what she’d learned. She replied,  “I’ve grown a lot…two really just crazy, interesting experiences. I’m good at compartmentalizing certain things. I know when I need to deal with that at home and what I need to do for my tennis.

“It just makes you appreciate things more…Having a family member that probably shouldn’t have lived, you then just shift your perspective and realize all the other things that bother you aren’t really that big of a deal. 

“Maybe it alleviates some pressure and makes you enjoy playing, traveling, more, because, at first, being home was also very stressful…It was kind of nice being away…I get to go to this amazing city and play in a Grand Slam. I think I just learned how to balance things better as well…throughout my career and personal life.”

GO FIGURE: Petra Kvitova beat Elena Ostapenko 0-6, 6-0, 6-4….Iga Swiatek hasn’t played a three-set match this year.

ALL SIXES: Daniil Medvedev is on a 16-match winning streak. The Russian will next play Sascha Zverev, a German of Russian heritage. Both are 6’ 6” and their head-to-head record is 6-6.

CANDID SASHA: After Alexander Zverev gutted out a tough three-set win over Finn Emil Ruusuvuori ,he confided, “To be honest he was a much better player, he played much better. But I found a way. That’s just the way it is. This is tennis. One or two points can decide a match.”

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE: No woman has won three titles or more at Indian Wells. Victoria Azarenka, who won in 2012 and 2016, was the only two-time male or female champion in this year’s draw. But she lost her first match.

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