15-Year-Old Wimbledon Qualifier from Florida Defeats Her Idol Venus Williams in Shocking Debut

The high school student received a wildcard to get into qualifying, something she "found out last minute"

Venus Williams, Cori Gauff
Venus Williams and Coco Gauff at Wimbledon on July 1. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty; BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty

Cori “Coco” Gauff just made history at Wimbledon!

The 15-year-old from Florida qualified for her first-ever U.K. tournament, officially becoming the youngest player to qualify in the Open Era since 1968. And that wasn’t the only history-making moment in the opening round of tennis play Monday.

Gauff, who is ranked No. 301 in the world, defeated five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, 6-4, 6-4, in an impressive debut against the 39-year-old veteran player, whom the teenager calls her idol.

In fact, Williams reached her four of nine Wimbledon finals before her opponent was born in March 2004.

Cori Gauff
Clive Brunskill/Getty

“Playing one of the greatest players of all time is a dream – I’m excited to see how I do,” Gauff told BBC before her match against Williams.

The high school student received a wildcard to get into qualifying, something she “found out last minute,” she said. “I wasn’t even packed to come here so it’s just crazy how life can turn around in a second.”

Speaking about Williams’ storied career, the young star shared, “I don’t think of Venus as old – she’s still killing the game right now. It’s crazy to show her longevity — that’s how I look at it. I hope I’m still playing and doing well at 39.”

Venus Williams
Clive Brunskill/Getty

In 2017, Gauff reached the U.S. Open girls’ final at just 13 before going on to win the French Open girls’ singles title a year later.

The tennis star’s father, Corey Gauff, who is also her coach, revealed that Venus and her sister Serena Williams are inspirations to his daughter and their family.

“The Williams family in general made me realize that it was possible,” he told the New York Times. “There wasn’t a lot of color in the sport, and particularly in our country, African-American girls weren’t playing tennis.”

Gauff’s next opponent is Magdalena Rybarikova.

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