How tennis phenom Coco Gauff struck stronger balance in life and on the court

Remember when Coco Gauff burst on the tennis scene as the most exciting young player in the game, hyped as the next superstar and touted as a once-in-a-lifetime prodigy?

That was in the time “before.” The pandemic has split the world into two parts, including the trajectory of elite athletes.

Gauff, 18, will make her debut at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic this week and is settling into something of a routine, now in the time “after” the COVID interruption.

“I feel like the pandemic allowed me to press the pause button a little bit,” Gauff said in a phone interview.

Back in 2019, Gauff was a shooting star. At 15, she became the youngest player to reach the main draw at Wimbledon through qualifying. She defeated Venus Williams in straight sets on her way to the fourth round and her matches were the most watched in the United States.

The match against her idol — she grew up enthralled with both the Williams sisters — was a seminal moment.

Sports columnist Ann Killion

“That moment — beating Venus at Wimbledon — made me believe that my dreams were closer to reality than it felt,” Gauff has said of that match. “It was definitely a lot to deal with.”

She arrived at the U.S. Open on a wave of hype and made it to the third round before being crushed by defending champion Naomi Osaka. She played in the Australian…

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