Opinion: American Coco Gauff, now 17, looks ready to challenge French Open

Nearly two years ago, Coco Gauff became a very famous tennis player when she made the fourth round of Wimbledon at age 15. When she followed it with a third-round showing at the U.S. Open and another fourth round at the 2020 Australian Open, beating Naomi Osaka in the process, it seemed as if the hype train might spin out of control before she was even old enough to join the WTA Tour on a full-time basis. 

It was, in many ways, a dangerous time for Gauff’s career. Tennis’ penchant for heaping pressure on young phenoms before they’re ready to handle it either emotionally or meet those expectations on the court is an all-too-familiar story. 

But then a strange thing happened. For whatever reason — probably some combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and problems with her own game — the storylines positioning Gauff as tennis’ next big superstar kind of disappeared. 

It was probably the best thing for her. 

As the French Open gets underway, there is plenty of discussion about Rafael Nadal’s quest for a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title, Roger Federer’s return to the big stage after two knee surgeries last year, Serena Williams trying again for No. 24 and Osaka announcing she won’t do interviews during the tournament after two straight Grand Slam wins but a spring in which she struggled on clay. 

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