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Getting To Know... Coco Vandeweghe

Blessed with sporty genes and with a Top 10 win in the bag, this 18-year-old American is set to make strides on Tour.

Published August 11, 2010 12:00

Getting To Know... Coco Vandeweghe
Coco Vandeweghe

SAN DIEGO, California - Coco Vandeweghe was surely destined to be a sportswoman of some kind - it just so happens tennis won the day. In 2006, aged 14, she made her Sony Ericsson WTA Tour debut as a wildcard at what was then the Acura Classic, not far from her home near San Diego. Two years later she won the 2008 US Open girl's title, underscoring her status as one of America's next big hopes. And last week she was back at the La Costa Resort, where she lit up the Mercury Insurance Open by scoring her first Top 10 win - over Wimbledon runner-up Vera Zvonareva - en route to her first Tour quarterfinal. Eventual champion Svetlana Kuznetsova stopped the qualifier's run, but the scene is set for a breakthrough summer.

We caught up with Coco after her exploits in San Diego, which saw her rise to a new career-high ranking of No.168.

How did you get into tennis?
CW:
I got into tennis through my older brother, Beau - I was a little sister following her brother around. I started when I was 11 and when my brother quit I kept pursuing it. He plays volleyball now, he doesn't play tennis anymore - though he probably still thinks he can beat me!

You come from an athletic family, going back generations.
CW:
Yes. My grandfather, Ernie, played professional basketball for the Knicks and went to medical school at the same time. My uncle Kiki, my mom's older brother, played pro basketball as well, for a couple of different teams. He was also the general manager for the Denver Nuggets and more recently the New Jersey Nets. My mom, Tauna, was a two-time Olympian, in 1976 for swimming - she was going to swim in 1980 but we boycotted - and in 1984 she played volleyball. My uncle, Bruk, played pro beach volleyball. My aunt Heather, my mom's sister, was a horse polo player but she was actually on a scholarship to Stanford for tennis. But she couldn't become a doctor and play tennis at the same time, so she took up polo.

Tell us about your coaching history and situation at the moment.
CW:
My first coaches were Guy and Harry Fritz, in California. They helped me out technique-wise, taught me my strokes, taught me the game of tennis. Jackie Cooper helped me out as well, along those lines. When I met Lindsay Davenport at the Sony Ericsson Open in 2008, I was about 16, she set me up with Robert Van't Hof, as I was sort of between coaches. I still work with him from time to time, but for the last five or six months I've been working with Tom Gullickson through the USTA. So I split my time between Carson in Califiornia and Boca Raton in Florida.

How would you describe your playing style?
CW:
I'd say I'm an all-court player. My game allows me to take the short balls and come to the net, hit the volleys.

Are you working on any particular aspect of your game at the moment?
CW:
Mostly I'm working on coming forward to make the most of the opportunities that my game style affords me. Essentially that means finding my comfort zone with my strokes... I'm realizing that my rally balls are pretty darn heavy and that I can rely on them, rather than trying to go for more. 

Favorite surface?
CW:
Hard.

If you could steal a shot from another player, what would it be?
CW:
I'd like to have returns like Andre Agassi, that would be pretty cool. I like my serve, though.

Goals for the rest of the season and further ahead?
CW:
My goals have kind changed since this good run at San Diego, so now I can get into different tournaments. But you now I just want to keep progressing, getting my ranking up so I can make main draws of the WTA events. My all-time goal is to be No.1 in the world.

Tennis idol growing up?
CW:
Lindsay.

Toughest opponent so far?
CW:
It's a toss-up between Sveta and Jelena Jankovic, who I played in the first round at the US Open in 2008 - on Arthur Ashe on opening night. The atmosphere was amazing.

Best tennis memory so far?
CW:
Probably beating Zvonareva in San Diego in a tough three-setter.

How far did you go in your education?
CW:
I finished high school recently. I went to La Costa until my sophomore year, and then completed the last two years via home schooling. I plan on going to college to do a degree... although I have no idea what I'll study.

If you weren't pursuing tennis, what would you be doing?
CW:
Playing basketball.

What do you like about like on Tour?
CW:
Just experiencing all the cultures of these countries we're able to go to. And having the opportunities to play on these big stages with crowds behind me - just living in the moment.

What's tough about life on Tour?
CW:
Probably being away from home a long time.

Favorite tournament or city?
CW:
Aside from La Costa I'd have to say the US Open.

What do you like to do to relax?
CW:
I like to go to the beach.

What non-tennis skill do you wish you had?
CW:
I wish I could spell! I'm a terrible speller.

If you had to describe yourself in one word?
CW:
Tenacious.

What qualities do you most appreciate in others?
CW:
Humility, and also a good sense of humor.

If you were marooned on a desert island and could have one luxury, what would it be?
CW:
Music.


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