Teen star Gauff amazed by celebrity status

Daniel Gilhooly
Teenage US tennis star Coco Gauff has proved a big hit on and off the court

Coco Gauff can barely fathom her celebrity status but reckons it will not be a burden when she tackles her first Australian Open this month.

Rated by many as the most talented player in tennis, 15-year-old Gauff has come to terms with the spotlight that has followed her from the day she stunned Venus Williams in the opening round of Wimbledon last July.

Going on to reach the fourth round of her maiden grand slam tournament and then the third round at the US Open ensured the spotlight stayed on the phenom from Florida's Delray Beach.

Victory at Austria's Linz Open in October made her the youngest WTA winner since 2004 and boosted her world ranking to 68.

The rank seemed a little light after she steamrolled through the first round of Auckland's ASB Classic on Monday, leaving her on course for a quarter-final showdown with her idol Serena Williams.

Gauff says she has entered 2020 feeling better equipped to cope with the fame that encompassed her from the moment she toppled the elder of the Williams sisters six months ago.

"It literally came overnight," she said.

"You see all these stories about not only tennis but other stuff like a viral video - and it's just crazy that it happened to me.

"I'm definitely dealing with it better now. People were talking about the US Open before Wimbledon even finished so I was nervous for that.

"But I realised that I just have to play for myself. It showed with my results that I've not been listening to it too much."

Gauff betrays her youth when asked about her daily brushes with fans.

Juggling her new-found celebrity status with her school studies has become part of a routine she still can not get her head around.

"They get so excited. A lot of times people meet me and they're shaking and I'm like 'don't shake, I'm normal'," she said.

"I can relate because I still freak out about certain people as well.

"It's a lot of responsibility because I'm still figuring life out, I'm still young. I still have homework to turn in on time and all this."

Gauff said she chose Auckland for her first tournament of 2020 as its scheduling allowed her to enjoy Christmas at home with her family and allow at least a week of training to iron out chinks in her game before the Australian Open.