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The Williams sisters played few junior events, but like Gauff, they gained notice at very young ages. As much as Gauff has idolized the sisters, the trajectory of her career couldn’t be more different. While Richard Williams shunned the junior circuit for his daughters, Corey Gauff, Coco’s father and coach, entered her in the Little Mo Nationals when she was just 8.



She won the tournament. She also won the USTA National 12 Clay Courts when she was 10, becoming the youngest champion in tournament history. That same year, Gauff began training part-time at the Mouratoglou Academy in France, run by Serena’s longtime coach, Patrick Mouratoglou. By the time she turned 13, Gauff was a seasoned international competitor.





“Playing juniors, for me, was all about experience,” Gauff says. “It was a good way to see how I was progressing. Even in matches today, if I’m at a certain scoreline I think about matches that I played in juniors.” After losing to Gauff, Venus said of her opponent, “I think the sky’s the limit.” By the time Gauff beat her again seven months later, at the 2020 Australian Open, the story of how she idolized the sisters was well documented.

But even though Venus and Serena won a combined 10 majors before Coco was even born, and are closer in age to Coco’s mother, Candi, than they are to the teen, she’s quickly become a respected peer. That was evident when Gauff and Serena attended a Mouratoglou-orchestrated pre-season boot camp in 2019 and appeared together in a meticulously choreographed, twerk-filled TikTok video.





“The best advice that she gave me is to keep working hard and focus on my own path,” Gauff says of Serena. “Obviously a lot of people have said things about her and her career, but she was always more focused on her own motivation and her own goals, and that’s why she went far.”

And how would Gauff feel if, 20 years from now, she, too, became the object of a young girl’s adoration? “Definitely, that’s the goal,” says the now-17-year-old. “Serena has big shoes to fill, but if I could inspire someone one day, that would definitely mean a lot.”

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