U.S. Open Champion CoCo Gauff has a connection to St. John Parish

Published 10:22 am Monday, September 11, 2023

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LAPLACE — Cheers filled the stadium and echoed across the world as 19-year-old Cori “CoCo” Gauff defeated Aryna Sabalenka in three sets and became the youngest American woman to win the U.S. Open women’s title since Serena Williams in 1999.

Years before she was receiving accolades from former U.S. presidents, she was running races with her cousins in St. John the Baptist Parish. In 2019, former Parish President Natalie Robottom presented CoCo with the key to the city while she was in town visiting family.

CoCo Gauff’s father, Corey Gauff, was born in Reserve. He moved to Florida with his mother as a young child but returned to St. John Parish every summer. His cousin, Lucien Gauff III, serves as assessor for the parish.

Corey Gauff pursued athletics beyond the high school arena like many of his relatives, who are largely spread out geographically but always connected at heart. Corey played basketball for Georgia State University, and he spent a little time on the DuPont tennis court during trips to Louisiana, but no one expected his daughter to rise to such great heights within the sport.

CoCo displayed a unique ability to concentrate at a young age. At 8 years old, she competed in the “Little Mo” international tennis tournament. By the age of 14, she had earned her first junior Grand Slam championship at the French Open and advanced to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.

At age 15, she became a household name when she ended her idol Venus Williams’ 2019 Wimbledon bid.

She won four tournaments on the world stage after going pro. She collapsed to the ground in tears upon being named a Grand Slam champion this past weekend in New York City.

When CoCo came to the St. John Parish Government Complex four years ago, she didn’t feel like a celebrity, and it still felt odd to her when people recognized her at a St. Charles Catholic football game.

Now, she’s getting mentions from the biggest celebrities and political leaders in the nation.

President Joe Biden congratulated CoCo on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

“You electrified Arthur Ashe stadium and the entire nation – the first of more to come and proof that anything is possible if you never give up and always believe. You’ve made America so proud,” he wrote.

Former President Barack Obama said he couldn’t be prouder of her on and off the court, while Michelle Obama shared a photo they took together after the first round of the U.S. Open.

Gauff told the World Tennis Association the expectations placed upon her the past few years have greatly impacted her journey to the U.S. Open.

She told the WTA, “My dad took me to this tournament, sitting right there, watching Venus and Serena compete, so it’s really incredible to be here on this stage.”