When professional tennis shut down in March because of the coronavirus, 16-year-old tennis phenom Coco Gauff could have used that time to relax and possibly engage in some of the normal teenage activities that she may have missed while playing in tournaments.
But Gauff told The New York Times that she did the very opposite and used that period to improve her game, while also involving herself in the fight for racial equality, which has been renewed since George Floyd died in May.
“Obviously I missed competing and I missed playing, but I think it was a good little break for me because I was able to train,” Gauff explained. “I always consider myself still in the development stage, so having those months off to work on certain stuff definitely helped.”
The Florida native, who ranks in the Women’s Tennis Association’s top 50, played in Lexington, Kentucky’s Top Seed Open. It makes for the first time that Gauff has returned to competition since January. In the Women’s Tennis Association tournament, she advanced to the quarterfinals by beating 11th-ranked Aryna Sabalenka on Wednesday, Aug. 12, before losing to Jennifer Brady — ranked at 49 — on Saturday, Aug. 15.
Between January and now, Gauff reportedly has worked on her returns, second serve and having better forward movement. She also spent time away from tennis speaking out against racial injustice.
In June, Gauff spoke to a crowd in her hometown of Delray Beach, Florida, outside of city hall, right after her maternal grandmother Yvonne Lee Odom spoke.
Odom was Seacrest High School’s first Black student in 1961 in Delray Beach. During her interview, Gauff said that she’d learned a tremendous amount from her grandmother, which is why she felt at ease when addressing the crowd, considering she was asked to do it just moments before.
“I think it’s sad that I’m here protesting the same thing that she did 50 plus years ago,” said Gauff at the June demonstration, referring to her grandmother. “And yes, we’re all out here protesting, and I’m not of age to vote, but it’s in your hands to vote for my future, for my brother’s future and for your future.”
In addition, the tennis pro has joined many around the world who seek justice for Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old EMT who was shot and killed in March when three officers from the Louisville Police Department barged into her home on a no-knock search warrant. The officers were on a drug raid, but drugs were never found inside Taylor’s apartment.
Gauff has already sent emails to LPD demanding justice since the officers have yet to be charged.
“Hopefully it can happen,” she told The New York Times. “We just continue to demand justice for her and continue to peacefully protest. Hopefully, we’ll see some change.”