In celebration of Black History Month, the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF) released a digital exhibit, Breaking the Racial Barriers, which is a comprehensive look at the history of black tennis in America. The exhibit includes brief profiles of black tennis pioneers, former pros and current top pros, including tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams and Dr. R. Walter Johnson, who in 2009 was inducted into the (ITHF) as a contributor. Throughout the Australian Open, the dougsmithpost.com will recognize selected black pioneers and current players.
2018 World No. 1 Junior
Several of tennis’ top analysts believe teen phenom Coco Gauff, 16, is on a special path, reserved only for the game’s all-time greats. Gauff had a loftier goal in mind years before the prognosticators weighed in: “I want to be the GOAT (greatest of all time).” That’s what she told her father, Corey, when she was 6 and several tennis writers over the years. She is coached by her father, a former collegiate basketball player at Georgia State and mother, Candi, a former hurdler and heptathlete at Florida State.
The former World No. 1 junior took the first step toward achieving her goal, by turning pro at 14. She was 15 years and three months old when she received a wildcard entry into the Wimbledon qualifying event. She won three matches and became the youngest pro to compete in the Wimbledon main draw. Gauff made the best of her historic debut, upsetting one of her idols and all-time greats, Venus Williams, in the first round. She advanced to the fourth round, where she was ousted by eventual champion Simona Halep. Two months later, Gauff won her first two matches at the U.S. Open, before losing to top-ranked Naomi Osaka. The next month, Gauff claimed her first WTA Tour title at the 2019 Linz (Austria)Open and was ranked a career high No 47 in the world in October 2020. The Delray Beach (FL.) native isn’t driven by tennis alone.
Earlier this year, Gauff, Osaka and Francis Tiafoe were among several young tennis pros who strongly protested the nation’s ongoing rise in police brutality incidents. “I think it’s sad that I’m here protesting the same thing (my grandmother) did 50 years ago,” Gauff said during a speech last summer. “My generation has just decided that it’s time to speak up.”