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15-Year-Old Cori 'Coco' Gauff Wins Big Over Venus Williams At Wimbledon

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Today at Wimbledon, a remarkable match. Fifteen-year-old phenom Cori Gauff, the youngest woman to qualify for Wimbledon in the modern era, took on the titan Venus Williams. Venus has won Wimbledon five times - twice before Gauff was even born. Gauff, nicknamed Coco, says the Williams sisters are the reason she picked up a racket. And today, it was Gauff who won in straight sets. Joining us from Wimbledon to talk about this upset is Courtney Nguyen. She's a senior writer for WTA Insider. Welcome to the program.

COURTNEY NGUYEN: Thank you very much.

CORNISH: So let's just start with why this was noteworthy. A lot of people have been talking about the age difference. But what else is going on?

NGUYEN: Well, I think the age difference, obviously, is the headliner. But I think the biggest thing, as well, is just almost an illustration of the legacy of the Williams sisters, of Venus Williams being the older of the two, with her and Serena, and just really getting a very clear picture out there on those beautiful grass courts of Wimbledon of what impact they've really had on the sport of tennis, being such great champions, being African American role models. And for Coco Gauff to have this opportunity, which she wanted so badly to play her idol, was really something very, very special. And that she was able to almost pay such great respect to Venus Williams by playing that level of tennis to get this win, I think, was an incredible celebration of the Williams' legacy.

CORNISH: We actually have a clip of Gauff speaking in her post-match press conference about what Venus told her after the match. Let's listen to that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CORI GAUFF: She said congratulations and good luck and that she was super proud of me. I - at the end, I was just telling her thank you for everything she's done, her and her sister. They've been, like, heroes for me and many other little girls out there. So I was just thanking her. And then she said thank you for saying that to her.

CORNISH: So very much talking about the legacy. Can you talk about style of play? Gauff won in two close sets.

NGUYEN: Two close sets. And boy, did she play an incredible match. You know, she's always been compared a lot to Venus, mostly because they look very similar. They're tall. They're lanky. But she showed a lot of the same traits that Venus had in her prime - you know, a really big serve, a great forehand that she was able to move Venus around with and a lot of ability to improvise on the court. Very good tennis IQ out there - caught Venus with a few good lobs and some passing shots.

But I think really, what set Coco Gauff apart today was just her composure. For a 15-year-old to stand on the biggest court she's ever played on in front of a crowd that's bigger than she's ever played on and to play her hero and to play that sort of match and keep that level of focus was really something very, very special for tennis. It's something that we don't see often. And I think that's why she's grabbing all these headlines.

CORNISH: Are we looking at a passing of the baton, in a way? I mean, do you think we'll be talking about Coco Gauff for the next 20-plus years?

NGUYEN: I think so. I think that it's just the game that she has and the way that she's been able to play. And she's also incredibly articulate, really smart - great perspective in her post-match press conference about her ambition. She wasn't shy about it. She wants to be the greatest of all time. And, you know - but having this very humble background of keeping her kind of hungry and focused on the task at hand. I think that everything is built for her to succeed down the road.

CORNISH: It sounds like it's very much in line with the legacy of the Williams sisters in that way.

NGUYEN: Very much so. And, you know, when you grow up and you see that level of excellence and that is your - you know, your pathway and also the blueprint for success, that's already a pretty good starting point for her to get this success so early in her career and get a big win like this - already foreshadows great things.

CORNISH: That's Courtney Nguyen of WTA Insider at Wimbledon. Thank you for speaking with us.

NGUYEN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEVOURS SONG, "FRIDAY NIGHT FUR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.