Just a week after turning 15 years old, Cori "Coco" Gauff turned heads in her maiden WTA main draw debut, winning her first match over fellow American teenager Catherine McNally, showing great poise during after after the three-set victory.
David Kane
March 21, 2019

MIAMI, FL, USA - Playing your first WTA main draw match can be a daunting prospect; luckily for Cori Gauff, the 15-year-old felt right at home playing fellow American teeanger Catherine McNally in the shadow of the Hard Rock Stadium.

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"My dad took us to Dolphins games and Hurricanes games, so I kind of knew how it was," Gauff, who also goes by Coco, said after a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over McNally at the Miami Open.

"Obviously it's so weird seeing tennis courts, because like, 'Oh, my God, this is concrete.' This was a grass parking lot!"

One of 10 teenagers in Miami's main and qualifying draws, also knew her opponent. After all, she had rallied from a similar deficit against McNally at last year's Roland Garros junior final, where she captured her first major title. She later paired McNally to win the US Open girl's doubles final in August.


"It kind of helped, obviously, because I knew her tendencies, but also I think it helps her. We both kind of had an advantage because know each other's games very well.

"I think that anyone could have won today, and I think the match just was really decided by two or three points."

Opening her press conference almost like a jaded veteran - outlining her on-court aim to "minimize the moment" and "control the controllables" - Gauff turned back into a teenager on deeper reflection of what she had just achieved.

Cori Gauff, Coco Gauff, Miami, Miami Open

"Well, I still don't believe that I won," she smiled. "I served for the match and I was, like, 'Do I have to return again, or do we shake hands?' I didn't really think it was over.

"This is a dream. I have been dreaming of this moment for years, just playing in the Miami Open. I have been coming to this tournament since I was eight or nine years old. Watching the players here and actually being in the same tournament, being in the same area as players that I've watched since practically I was born, it's so surreal to me."

Equally surreal have been the many shoutouts Tennis Channel have sent her way as she worked towards this moment, telling Brett Haber and Chanda Rubin during her desk interview how her family will send her clips for every name drop.

"My dad always used to tell me to control the controllables. I can control how I want to play and what tactics I want, but I never know if I'm going to miss or make a shot. I just tried to control my attitude. I think we both looked like we had been on tour for years. I think that we both showed good attitude today."
Cori "Coco" Gauff

"Tennis Channel is always on in my house. It's kind of weird seeing the players saying 'Hi' to me, that I have been watching on TV for a long time.

"Lately I have been trying to watch more matches and see what players do. Obviously I like seeing the women play, but I really like watching the men play, because I also try to serve big. So I kind of try to see how they place their serves, what patterns they go to when it's 30-30 or deuce."

The former junior No.1 has also been embraced by more established WTA stars, practicing with the likes of Monica Puig, Andrea Petkovic, and Alison Riske throughout the week.

Cori Gauff, Coco Gauff, Miami, Miami Open

"I thought I was going to get blown out. These are Top 20, Top 30, or former Top 20 players. I was actually able to level up to them, and that kind of gave me confidence, knowing that I'm young and they have been on tour for years. They're not blowing me off the court, so that helped.

"After playing with [Riske], she's, like, 'You're going to go far. You have a great game. You go for your shots.' All the players gave me great feedback, actually, at the end of the practice. They all told me that I'm going to do big things in this tournament."

Gauff next plays No.14 seed Daria Kasatkina, a two-time major quarterfinalist but a player who has won just one match all year. Regardless of opponent, the Delray Beach native came to Miami with only one goal.

"I don't want to say I will just win this next match and be done. My goal is to win the tournament. I'm going to keep that goal there and just keep fighting for it."

She may find herself channelling some of that fighting spirit from Captain Marvel, her new favorite superhero and the latest to come out of the Marvel universe.

"I love Marvel. I love Avengers, super heroes, all that. It was a nice, good movie, and it kind of made a lot of sense. It was funny, and it had a plot twist. I don't know if you guys saw it. I don't want to spoil it if you guys want to see it!"