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Coco Gauff’s present-tense portrait of poise

Matt Zemek

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Robert Deutsch - USA TODAY Sports

When writing about a 15-year-old athlete who produces significant accomplishments, it is so easy to think about the future. The act of thinking about the future is fine… as long as that act doesn’t harden into a firm set of expectations about that future. No 15-year-old, no matter how gifted, should be burdened with that pressure.

(Yes, we know that the expectations will be heaped upon such athletes, but we — as individuals — don’t have to participate in that process.)

While many will dream about the future Coco Gauff might create, it is better to simply sit in the present tense and marvel at what Gauff is doing right now. The more she plays, the more she impresses.

Regardless of what this upcoming decade, the 2020s, might look like, let’s stop to admire what Goff is doing in the first month of the decade, picking up where she left off in 2019, the last year of the previous decade.

Yes, the two wins over Venus Williams (say what you want about Venus’s form, it’s still Venus Ebony Starr Williams) would be impressive enough in their own right. Yet, can we quietly and plainly point out that Coco Gauff has won her next match after beating Venus at Wimbledon and in Australia?

Gauff avoids letdowns in major tournaments. This isn’t hyperbole. This is a basic, affirmed reality.

Another basic, affirmed reality: Gauff has not yet lost to a player ranked outside the top 10 in the main draw of a major tournament. Her only losses are to Simona Halep (Wimbledon) and the player she will meet in the Australian Open third round, Naomi Osaka, who beat her at the U.S. Open.

Gauff is beating everyone else at majors, and by “everyone else,” I am not referring to tomato-can players or inexperienced peers.

Here is a brief overview of the non-Venus players Gauff has beaten at major tournaments:

First, Gauff has beaten five non-Venus players total. Of those five players, only one is currently outside the top 90: Magdalena Rybarikova (176), whom Gauff beat at Wimbledon last summer.

Of those five non-Venus players, only one is younger than 26 years old: Anastasia Potapova, whom Gauff defeated at the U.S. Open.

Polona Hercog, Timea Babos, and Sorana Cirstea (Gauff’s most recent victim at this Australian Open) are all in the top 90 and at least 26.

Stop and appreciate this: These are veteran players who have been through the wars of tennis for a relatively long time. They have made a home inside the top 100. They are familiar faces in major-tournament draws. Their accumulated experience is considerable, and again, we aren’t even talking about Venus Williams.

If Venus’s age was added to the mix, the average age of opponent in Gauff’s seven major-tournament wins would be 30 years (211 combined years divided by seven). Without Venus, Gauff’s other five major-tournament wins have come against an opponent with an average age of 26.6 years (133 divided by five), which is still the equivalent of a veteran player in the middle portion of a career (Babos being the closest approximation).

Gauff isn’t yet 16 years old. She is, on average, beating players 10 to 15 years older at the most important tournaments in tennis. The only players who have managed to beat her at majors are the elites, the residents of the top 10.

Sometimes, numbers and statistics don’t tell powerful stories. In Coco Gauff’s case, they do.

Savor the present-tense portrait of poise Gauff has created… and is still creating.

The future can wait in its own good time.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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