"She might be overnight popular, but she’s not an overnight success," her father said of his daughter being labeled a prodigy

By Claudia Harmata
August 21, 2019 11:26 AM

At just 15 years old, Cori “Coco” Gauff made history when she became the youngest player to qualify for Wimbledon, and then again when she defeated five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in an impressive 2019 debut against the 39-year-old veteran player.

Headlines across outlets, from ESPN to The New York Times, began calling the teen a tennis prodigy as she quickly became a household name — and even received praise from former First Lady Michelle Obama.

However, in her August cover story for Teen Vogue, Coco and her parents — Candi and Corey Gauff — reveal they aren’t fans of the label.

“I try not to think about it, because it’ll put too much pressure on [me],” Coco told Teen Vogue.

Camila Falquez for Teen Vogue
Camila Falquez for Teen Vogue

And the Florida high schooler’s father agrees, attributing his daughter’s success to her hard work and self-motivation.

“I understand the Webster’s dictionary [definition] of it, and maybe it’s applicable, but to me, it’s like [Bobby] Fischer in chess. Somebody [who] can see the chessboard. That’s a prodigy to me. They just have a mental capability that’s so unique and so off the charts,” Coco’s father, Corey told the magazine.

Camila Falquez for Teen Vogue

“When it comes to something like tennis, [Coco] works hard,” he explained. “This is not an accident. She might be overnight popular, but she’s not an overnight success.”

Even at just seven and eight years old, Coco worked hard and pushed to be the best. Her former coach during those years, Jewel Peterson, called the athlete a “coach’s dream.”

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“I never had to tell her, ‘Run your laps, do your dynamic.’ I never had to tell her how to start her practice. She did it on her own,” Peterson told Teen Vogue. “To this day, I still have not seen anybody that driven.”

While tennis often feels like a release for her, Coco told the magazine that she also stays self-motivated to continue practicing and continue improving because of her love for winning.

“I just want to win more,” she said. “I love winning more than I hate losing.”