World No.11 Coco Gauff took some time out of her hard-court preparation to take part in an exhibition event at the Atlanta Open, an ATP 250 event held in Atlantic Station. The 18-year-old faced compatriot and Atlanta resident Taylor Townsend in the first of two exhibition matches on Sunday night. Gauff won 6-3, 6-3 and will face 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in another exhibition on Monday night.
"I think it was a great performance," Gauff said. "Had a lot of fun, wasn't sure how it was going to be tonight. Taylor made it super fun. These matches have to [be] with the right person and I think Taylor was the right person."
In front of a packed stadium, Gauff and Townsend wowed the crowd with their shot-making. Inspiration was the theme of the night, as Gauff debuted a new pair of New Balance shoes that bore a phrase that Gauff has held dear to her heart: "You can change the world with your racket."
Coco Gauff debuted her 1st New Balance signature shoe — the Coco CG1 — at the Atlanta Open. 👀👀— Nick DePaula (@NickDePaula) July 25, 2022
Design is inspired by ‘90s styling and features a quote from her father Corey on the toe:
“You can change the world with your racket.” pic.twitter.com/IOUiFOHcsY
"Since I was younger, my dad told me I could change the world with my racquet," Gauff said at the French Open this spring, where, after winning her semifinal match, she signed the camera 'Peace. End gun violence'.
"He didn't mean that by just playing tennis. He meant speaking out on issues like this. The first thing my dad said to me after I got off court was, 'I'm proud of you and I love what you wrote on the camera.' I think my parents support me when talking about issues like this."
The exhibition event was extra special for Townsend, who was able to enjoy the night with her son Adyn. Now ranked No.108, the 26-year-old recently returned to competitive action after a 19-month maternity leave. In her first two tournaments back, Townsend made back-to-back quarterfinals on the ITF level. In her third, she won the whole thing, taking home the title at the ITF 100K in Charleston, South Carolina. Last month, she made the Roland Garros doubles semifinal with Madison Keys.
"To be able to inspire people and to play in our backyard, where not a lot of people get to see us play live, it's kind of like something on their bucket list," Townsend said.
In true exhibition fashion, the night was not without the requisite hijinks. Gauff and Townsend took part in the viral #TortillaChallenge. Spit-takes ensued: