Coco Gauff: Using Her Voice To Turn Anguish Into Purpose

WASHINGTON, June 1, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

In a frenetic week filled with global coronavirus pandemic and the killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer in Minneapolis that was the lightening rod for coast-to-coast protests and civil unrest in the United States, rising tennis star Coco Gauff has grown up. While it is easy to still refer to Gauff as a teen sensation – after all, she just turned 16 earlier this year – she has matured quickly in the past few days.

On Friday, Gauff posted a powerful TikTok video hashtagged #blacklivesmatter, in which she dons a black hoodie, looks soberly at the camera as a caption flashes: “This is why I am using my voice against racism …”, then asks in a matter-of-fact tone of voice while holding her hands up: “Am I next?” As images of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and other African-Americans – all who have been slain violently by law enforcement agents – flash across the screen, a crescendoing soundtrack reaches its dramatic peak. There’s plenty to absorb, but this message of urgency – speaking out against systematic racism and injustices – is impactful.

Gauff closes her 29-second TikTok video by challenging viewers: “I am using my voice. Will you use yours?”

On Saturday, Hall of Fame great Chris Evert praised Evert, writing on Twitter: “ I believe we have a future leader, role model, and activist in @CocoGauff. At the younge age of 16, she is showing up in the fight against racial prejudice. She could champion human rights and still be a champion in tennis. I believe she can be an inspiration and do it all.” ❤️

The Way Back Machine – Robin Söderling vs. Rafael Nadal, 2009 French Open

It’s hard to believe it has been 11 years – nearly to the day – since Rafael Nadal was upset in the fourth round by Robin Söderling at Roland Garros. Recently, Washington Post Sports features writer Chuck Culpepper wrote a perspective about why Nadal’s last French Open loss provides the clearest memory of why we miss Roland Garros.

The French Open – A Paris fashion legacy

From lace to color accents, from vibrant floral prints to vertical stripes, from horizontal stripes to teal, from bees to zebra stripes to body suits, from Virgil Abloh to Stella McCartney, the past decade has brought to Roland Garros a Parisian fashion legacy. Over the weekend, the WTA website presented a photo montage that brought out the best of the decade’s collection of fashion styles and the players who wore them.

Behind The Racquet – Heather Watson

Great Britain’s Heather Watson, currently ranked 50th in the world, remembers well six years ago when she was struggling. It turns out she was suffering from glandular fever – mononucleosis – but didn’t realize it at first. She thought she was growing “soft and lazy” after losing matches she should have won.

After Watson achieved a career-best ranking of No. 39 just before the 2015 Australian Open, it would drop outside the Top 100 by the end of 2018. At times, as she penned in a first-person essay for the Instagram series Behind The Racquet, Watson developed an inner struggle that matched her outer one. “I hate tennis. I don’t really want to play anymore,” she wrote. After consulting physicians and getting a proper diagnosis, as Watson remembers “I struggled to get back, but it was better than before. It had a really big effect on my mental health, which I was struggling with, but at the end of the day, I do really love tennis.”

During this abbreviated season, Watson has compiled a 13-5 win-loss record and lifted her fourth career title when she won the WTA International event in Acapulco. Her career record is 315-245 and she’s earned more than $3.7 million in prize money.

At one time, Watson said she would do whatever her team told her to do. “I would do it,” she wrote. “Now, it’s a conversation and at the end of the day, I make the final decision. My results haven’t been amazing, but what I will say is that I’m very happy on and off the court and tennis isn’t the be-all, end-all, and I’m okay with that.”

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“When I was 22 I had glandular fever, which is mono. People go through things much worse, but this was one of my toughest moments because I was at my career high, at the time, of 39 in the world. I remember at the Australian Open, I was just so tired and I could not be asked to walk on for my first round match. The match before me was one of those where you just don’t know when it’s going to finish. I literally warmed up with my fitness coach for an hour just trying to stay warm. I eventually got on court and was down 3-1 in the first set and already cramping. I’m like, ‘For f**k sake.’ I thought it was because my warm-up was too long. I knew I didn’t have enough energy, but at the same time, I’m thinking it is only 3:1 and I’ve just had pre-season, this is not normal. I get down 6:1, 3:1 and called for the doctor. I told him I couldn’t do this and he gave me some sugars and electrolyte drinks and pushed me to keep going. I kept the points as short as possible and somehow managed to win the match and the one after. I caught myself in my room, curled up in a ball thinking, ‘I hate tennis. I don’t really want to play anymore.’ I finally told my coaches how I was feeling and they thought we needed to be training harder. I couldn’t think of anything worse. Even after we put in extra work I felt myself continuing to cramp and feeling extremely tired. I told my agent I was done.” The WTA physios gave me the first piece of helpful advise. They insisted I get blood work done. I got the results that said I had mono. I was actually relieved I had something because I thought I was growing soft and lazy. I took a needed four months off. I struggled to get back, but it was better than before. It had a really big effect on my mental health, which I was struggling with, but at the end of the day, I do really love tennis. In that past Australian Open I was at the stage where whatever my team told me to do, I would do it. Now it’s a conversation and at the end of the day, I make the final decision. My results haven’t been amazing, but what I will say is that I’m very happy on and off the court and tennis isn’t the be-all ,end-all and I’m okay with that.” @heatherwatson92

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ATP Tour / Benoit Paire’s pink hair

Stan Wawrinka / Cooling off at the pool

Roland Garros / “Chatting with Daniela” and Guga