SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Coco Gauff has had weeks to digest her fortnight at the French Open, where she made her first major final. As she sits now at a career-high ranking of No.11, Gauff won't be resting on her laurels anytime soon.
Ahead of her tournament debut at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, Gauff, 18, was asked if she felt her Paris run alleviated some of the pressure for a big result. After all, she remains the youngest player in the Top 50 and, until 17-year-old Linda Noskova's run to the Prague final last weekend, the youngest in the Top 100.
"It definitely did," Gauff said. "But it definitely made me hungry for more.
"I love Iga [Swiatek], but I watched her lift the trophy at the [Roland Garros trophy] ceremony and I said I want to take in this moment and just visualize and make me want to work harder for me to be the next person, or hopefully the next, to lift that trophy.
"So, yeah, it did relax me, but it definitely made me want it even more. I thought I wanted it more before then but I guess seeing it firsthand makes you want it even more."
Gauff is seeded No.6 this week and will open against Ukraine's Anhelina Kalinina. A victory could pit her up against former No.1 Naomi Osaka in the second round. Osaka faces a stiff first-round test against China's Zheng Qinwen.
Gauff is set to debut her new signature shoe this week, which bears her dad's advice, "You can change the world with your racket" on the right toe. It's a phrase she takes to heart.
Using her platform for the greater good
No stranger to speaking candidly on real world matters, Gauff answered an array of questions, ranging from Naomi Osaka's spotlighting mental health issues, to Billie Jean King's activist example, Daria Kasatkina's recent decision to come out and her own role in highlighting the Black Lives Matter movement.
Gauff admitted that until two years ago, she didn't realize how many people she could affect.
"I guess from the outside looking in, a lot of people say that it's so outstanding what you're doing and everything, but I feel like my whole life I've been surrounded by trailblazers," Gauff said. "From my grandparents, my parents, just the people in my community.
"Every day so many people come up to me saying that they're glad that I'm using my platform. I think that's just what makes it worth it. I mean, you see the messages online and it is real people behind the screens, but seeing it in person definitely makes you feel like you're doing something and I don't want to take it for granted because there's so many more issues going on in the world than me losing or winning a match.
"I sometimes have to take a step back and look from the outside. I'm just hitting a yellow tennis ball in the court and there's people dealing with real things. If I can say something or do something that can somewhat affect that, I think it makes it all worth it."
On Black Lives Matter
“I was one of the first tennis players to speak out about it on social media. And I remember having this conversation with my dad before I put out the post because he was very nervous for me to put anything out because, you know, tennis is a predominantly white sport and I would say with predominantly white viewers. So he was very just concerned about it."
On Naomi Osaka spotlighting mental health
“I think for all athletes I think it probably made us take a step back and realize that it's OK to put certain things above our sport. I feel like we're used to being told that is wrong. And it was nice to see [Osaka] and Simone Biles put their mental health first. So I think watching her is definitely inspiring and I'm glad that she's a representation of tennis and I think she's a great representation of our sport. I always tell her, you know, like after I lost to her in Cincinnati, keep doing what you’re doing.”
On Billie Jean King being the co-founder of the San Jose tournament
"Usually I don't get nervous meeting former players because I feel like I see them all the time, but always with her you just feel it. I think everybody around just feels it. Playing this tournament and also just playing in tennis in general, I feel very grateful that we had a forefront leader like her to lead into this representation of women and equality in general. And I'm glad that tennis is probably one of the only sports that has equal pay for as many years as we had. And for me, it wouldn't have been possible without her and the other Original 9. So I'm grateful and playing this tournament that was co-founded by her, I hope I can be a good example and follow in those footsteps.”
On Daria Kasatkina's recent decision to come out
I think that would be something really scary to do, especially coming from her country, which isn't as open as we are in the U.S. about that issue. I'm just really happy for her and I wish her the best. ... I can only imagine how many people in her situation feel inspired by that. I think that's why it's another thing why it's important to speak out about stuff like that. So I'm just super happy for her and I hope the situation gets better and I hope that this starts a conversation in her country.”