“Last Week My Best Friend Went From Jokester Coco To World-Famous 15-Year-Old Tennis Champion, Cori Gauff”

Cori Gauff's best friend speaks to Grazia about how it felt to watch her pal beat Venus Williams

Cori Gauff

by Grazia |

Every year, someone emerges as the one to watch at Wimbledon****. Last week, 15-year-old Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff – the youngest person ever to qualify for the tennis tournament – became that player as she beat her idol, Venus Williams, in a stunning Grand Slam debut. The American teenager is still at school: before a match to qualify for the tournament, she’d had to stay up late to take a science test the night before. But exams didn’t stop her 6-4, 6-4 victory over the five-times Wimbledon champion – 24 years her senior – who’d first inspired her to pick up a racquet. Afterwards, Cori said of Venus: ‘I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her.’

Today Cori was sadly knocked out of the tournament, suffering stomach cramps and a two-set defeat to Romanian player Simona Halep. But she's already written herself into sporting history. Here, her best friend Jamilah Nicole Snells, 16, talks us through the aftershock..

Last week, my best friend went from jokester Coco to world-famous 15-year-old tennis champion – and I feel so proud I want to cry. After the match, she had interviews and a dinner to go to, but when she got back to her hotel room in London she FaceTimed me in LA and we literally sat and screamed at each other for ages. It’s the happiest I’ve ever seen her in my life. She was literally glowing and talked about the rush she felt to be on a court with Venus Williams, let alone the rush of playing her first Grand Slam match against her and winning. The next day, her face was front page news all over the world. I asked how it felt and she told me she doesn’t feel famous. She said she feels normal. She always imagined she’d play Venus one day, but never thought it would be so soon.

She wasn’t even particularly nervous beforehand, just excited, because this has always been her dream. Coco and I met at tennis academy in Florida seven years ago and back then everyone could already tell how talented she was. Her parents told her from the beginning that she could do this. Her dad, Corey, is her coach and was cheering her on from the side of the court last week. I know her parents will have burst with joy when she won – her mum and dad are always so proud of her and want the best for her. And her two brothers are so kind and have the best manners. I love seeing her whole family.

I watched this match from LA because I couldn’t get over to England, but I go to every match of hers that I can make. She might be a big deal now, but I know she’ll always stay humble. She’s one of the most kind-hearted, modest people I know. She’s also the biggest joker and we have each other in stitches when we’re not dancing or chatting each other’s ears off. Venus and her sister Serena are the reason Coco got into tennis: we used to joke that she’d play Serena one day and I always said it’ll be a close and entertaining match. I don’t want to say she’ll be the next Venus or Serena, because she’s going to be the next amazing Coco. But it is funny for me to get my head around when I think back to the girl I know from a holiday to France on her 14th birthday, exploring Nice together.

Or the person dancing next to me at an Ariana Grande concert recently. I’m in high school but I play tennis, too, and have started playing more pro tournaments. I hope to make it professionally one day. I’m just so happy that Coco is leading the way. I’ve known this amazing girl for years, but the world is just starting to get to know her – and they’re in for a real treat.

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