Coco Gauff, the 15-year-old tennis phenom, beat tennis legend Venus Williams at a major tournament for the second year in a row on Monday, besting the 39-year-old seven-time Grand Slam winner in back-to-back sets (7-6 (5), 6-3,).
Easily the most highly anticipated first-round match of the Australian Open, Gauff and Williams’ head-to-head shows how much has changed in the year since Gauff’s stunning upset of the elder Williams sister at Wimbledon.
As the New York Times notes, the crowd once again appeared to be very much in love with the Coco, but as her profile has risen, so have the expectations for her game. “It was striking to watch her first-round rematch with Williams ... and realize as the crowd chanted ‘Coco’ that it might now be a bigger surprise if Gauff lost than if she won,” Christopher Clarey writes.
“I definitely was more confident this time. I think I was used to playing on big courts, so the crowd—I guess the size of the crowd didn’t startle me as much as last time,” Gauff told reporters. “Definitely a bit more positive coming into this match.”
There remains a sense of a passing-of-the-torch happening between Williams and Gauff, though as her father, Corey Gauff noted, Williams’ presence at the Open is a testament to her staying power.
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“She’s showing my daughter you can play tennis as long as you want at a high level,” Gauff said, according to the New York Times. “I’m glad my daughter won, but I hate to see Venus out in the first round. I wish they didn’t have to play each other.”
Williams spoke warmly of the teenage Gauff, praising her work ethic and maturity. The trailblazing Williams may see shades of her journey in Gauff—she was a breakout star on the tennis court, turning pro at the age of 14 and winning her first singles title at 17.
“She clearly wants it,” Williams said about Gauff. “I think the sky’s the limit for her.”
Meanwhile, Gauff’s own remarks after the win echo that of the Williams sisters.
“My mission is to be the greatest,” she said. “That’s my goal, to win as many Grand Slams as possible. But for today, my mission was to win.”