SELF-BELIEF LIFTING GAUFF IN CHARLESTON OPEN RUN
FROM WORLD-CLASS TENNIS TO ELEVATOR DANCE-OFFS, 17-YEAR-OLD SHOWING SHE CAN HANDLE IT ALL
Leave it to Coco Gauff to find the entertainment value in something as claustrophobically unsettling as getting stuck in an elevator for the better part of an hour.
Without cell service, horror of horrors.
That was the case for the 17-year-old tennis prodigy this week in Charleston, when her hotel elevator went on the fritz. Gauff, making her debut at the Volvo Car Open, isn’t one to panic, neither on the court nor, apparently, in malfunctioning lifts. No, instead she used her predicament as an opportunity to showcase her dance moves. Taking to TikTok, Gauff strutted her stuff to Jaden Smith’s “Icon,” only bringing her solo performance to a halt when firefighters arrived on the scene with the clock approaching midnight.
“It was some nice ‘alone time’ I guess,” laughed Gauff, who’s into the quarterfinals of her first-ever WTA tournament on green clay, a surface she grew up playing on in South Florida. “I laid down for a little bit. I had no Instagram, no Internet, no nothing, so I was listening to the music that I already had downloaded. My TikTok got 500,000 views, so it was worth it. Get stuck in an elevator and record a TikTok if you want to go viral.”
Gauff said her parents, Corey and Candi, might not have been so calm, cool and collected: “I don’t know how my mom would react. She would probably be not dancing, but more just calm. But my dad, he has claustrophobia. Window seats on a plane? He can’t do that. He would have been freaking out. If we were stuck together, that probably would have been worse, because I would have been just doing that and he would have gotten really upset at me.”
You have to have a whole lotta confidence to put yourself out there like that on TikTok, your makeshift-dancefloor skills on display for all the world to see. But Gauff, who first cracked the Top-50 earlier this year and is now ranked No. 36, has long been sure of her abilities. That self-belief is beginning to pay dividends on the court. In February, she reached her maiden WTA 500 semifinal in Adelaide, then her first WTA 1000 quarterfinal in Dubai.
“It’s definitely important in my game. I feel like when I’m confident on the court, I play my best tennis,” said Gauff prior to her elite-eight matchup with tricky Tunisian Ons Jabeur, against whom she is a perfect 2-0. “I think it’s important that I just continue to trust my shots and trust my strokes. Even if I miss hitting a good shot, those are the shots that I want to make.”
Was she merely born with that faith, or is it a byproduct of hours upon hours on the practice court and the resulting match wins?
“It’s a little bit of both,” she said. “Obviously, when you’re winning, your confidence grows. That’s just a given. But in practice, I think it’s important. I try to give 100 percent in practice every time, because that’s what I do in the matches. I guess if you do something 1,000 times in practice, you feel comfortable hitting it in a match when the pressure moments are there.”
No wonder she was so at ease in that out-of-order elevator. Performing under pressure is her thing.