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Cori Gauff, 15, makes historic Wimbledon debut

By Alex Butler
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American Cori Gauff defeats American Venus Williams in the first round match at Wimbledon on Monday. Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/f521ea598e3daf73b6d7172091075857/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
American Cori Gauff defeats American Venus Williams in the first round match at Wimbledon on Monday. Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo

July 1 (UPI) -- She's only 15 years old, but already owns one of the strongest serves in the world.

Cori "Coco" Gauff is the youngest player ever to qualify for Wimbledon. And she defeated Venus Williams in straight sets Monday in her historic debut at the All England Club.

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Gauff reached the tournament by knocking out qualifying No.1 seed Aliona Bolsova in straight sets.

"I've been dreaming to share the court with Venus," Gauff said this week at Wimbledon.

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Williams, 39, is a five-time Wimbledon champion. She won two of those titles before Gauff was born in 2004. There have been 11 players younger than Gauff to play at the main draw, but she is the only player to make it through qualifying instead of direct entry.

Like many other little girls, Gauff only watched the Williams sister from afar while growing up in Delray Beach, Fla. She eventually forged a closer bond, sharing famed coach Patrick Mouratoglou with Serena Williams.

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"Serena Williams has always been my idol ... and Venus," Guaff said. "They are the reason why I wanted to pick up a tennis racket."

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Gauff began training at the Mouratoglou Academy in Paris at 10-years-old before moving to his facility in Sophia Antipolis, France, where she still trains alongside the sport's elite stars.

Mouratoglou said Gauff is a "one-of-a-kind player."

"I'll always remember the first time I saw Coco," Mouratoglou said. "She came over to the Mouratoglou Academy in 2014 to try out and she impressed me with her determination, athleticism and fighting spirit."

"She was only 10-years-old, but you could feel she was already extremely ambitious. When she looks at you and tells you she will be number one you can only believe it."

Mouratoglou also coaches 2019 Wimbledon participants Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexei Popyrin, Benoit Paire, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Alize Cornet.

Gauff trains stateside with Nick Saviano out of Plantation, Fla. Saviano has coached a bounty of tennis stars, including Sloane Stephens, Jennifer Capriati, Eugenie Bouchard, Monica Puig and 17-year-old French Open breakout star Amanda Anisimova.

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Before meeting the likes of Mouratoglou and Saviano, Gauff was a regular at the Delray Beach Tennis Center, a facility frequented by men's tennis star Kevin Anderson. Guaff and the Williams sisters also play at nearby Pompey Park.

"She is definitely a favorite of ours," Delray Beach Tennis Center general manager Jeff Bingo told UPI.

Gauff has been training at the center her entire life, often taking the court twice daily. Bingo attended the same high school as her father, Corey Gauff, a former Georgia State basketball player. Gauff's mother, Candi, was a track athlete at Florida State.

"Just look at her, she's a specimen," Bingo said.

Saviano said Gauff boasts "tremendous physical attributes in terms of her strength, power, speed and agility."

"I think obviously, players look [to emulate] the Williams sisters," Saviano said. "Their aggressiveness and positive can-do attitude, I think has inspired generations of players."

Saviano said Gauff is "completely dedicated to being the best." He also said she is respectful and has great values.

"She has a power serve, one of the best services in the world," Saviano said. "She is Coco Gauff. She is not the second coming. She is a pleasure to deal with."

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Gauff does not talk to the Williams sisters often, but they have met at Mouratoglou Academy.

Mouratoglou said Gauff does not have similar technicques to either Williams sister, but does share their traits of ambition and competiveness.

Angelique Kerber is the women's defending Wimbledon champion. Novak Djokovic is the men's defending champion of the Grand Slam. Kerber sits at No. 5 in the Women's Tennis Association's world rankings.

Gauff is ranked No. 313 in the world.

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