NEW YORK -- Coco Gauff has learned a lot from watching Serena Williams over the past 18 years, but the teenager has revealed one fun fact that showed their fates might be more entwined than we thought.
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Speaking with reporters ahead of the US Open, where Gauff is the youngest seeded player in the draw, she was asked to recall the first time she met Williams.
It turns out, she didn't just get a photo with Williams, she also received the first paycheck of her life thanks to the American legend.
"I think I was 9 or 10 years old," Gauff said. "They needed a stunt double to play a young version of her, just the [neck] down. I think it was for a Delta commercial."
Gauff filmed the commercial in Palm Beach Gardens and stopped at Williams' trailer. "I stopped by her trailer, took a picture. She probably doesn't even know. My mom actually sent me a picture a couple weeks ago of me waiting, getting my hair done by the people.
"I don't think they ever used it, but that was the first check I ever got as a kid. She doesn't know this, but the first money I ever made for myself was because of her doing a commercial."
See the photo of Gauff and Williams in ESPN's profile of the young star here.
How Coco Gauff learned to chart her own path
As she readies for the final major of the season, Gauff cut a relaxed figure as she fielded questions from the press. She had just been out on the courts as a spectator, cheering on her good friend Chris Eubanks, who successfully qualified for the main draw. The previous night, she found herself in tears as her signature shoe, the New Balance CG1, was released for sale worldwide.
"Now that I think about it, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, all these people, I think I'm the second [tennis player]," Gauff said. "I think Roger [Federer] is the only other active tennis player with a shoe out. That's pretty cool.
"To be added to this list is something crazy. People ask, 'I like your shoes,' it's cool to say, 'Yeah, they're mine.' I guess that's cool."
tomorrow. #CG1 pic.twitter.com/5L4e29le4F— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) August 26, 2022
It's hard not to see the Williams legacy live on in Gauff. She has gone from crumbling under the pressure of being hailed "The Next Serena" to charting her own path, one that takes inspiration in Williams' example.
"Growing up I never thought that I was different because the No.1 player in the world was somebody who looked like me," Gauff said. "I think that's the biggest thing that I can take from what I've learned from Serena.
"Then also on a more personal level, I got to have a couple conversations with her later on in life. I think it's just the way that she handles herself. She never puts herself down. I love that she always elevates herself.
"Sometimes being a woman, a black woman in the world, you kind of settle for less. I feel like Serena taught me that, from watching her, she never settled for less. I can't remember a moment in her career or life that she settled for less.
"I think that's something I took from her. As a person, I'm growing into being an adult and learning how to handle things now with the media and tennis and everything. I'm trying to learn to not settle for less."