Unless you managed to completely avoid your screens over the weekend, you’re probably well aware that Coco Gauff is a phenom. Despite the sweltering 90-degree New York heat, the American teen won the US Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday, beating world number two player Aryna Sabalenka—and immediately bursting into happy tears after her match point.
Gauff’s big win—her first Grand Slam title—at just 19 years old was thrilling for many tennis fans, but her killer backhand isn’t the only reason she deserves superstar status. Her influence goes beyond the court, and if the thousands of social media posts about her star power are any indication, it’s her charisma and great personality (coupled with her formidable sporting skills) that have truly won over everyone’s hearts.
Whether you’ve been following Gauff from the jump or started going down a fandom rabbit hole after Saturday’s championship match, we’re here to give you all the more reason(s) to stan Gauff—a tennis legend in the making, a symbol of representation, and an inspiration all around.
Her instantly iconic victory speech.
In true legend fashion, Gauff thanked not only her family and fans (hi!) but shouted out the haters too, saying: “Those who thought they were putting water on my fire, you were really adding gas to it. Now I’m really burning so bright right now.”
She continued to acknowledge folks who doubted her skills during her post-match interview, as well. “I felt like people were like, ‘It was all hype.’ I see the comments,” Gauff said. “People think I don’t see, but I’m very aware of Tennis Twitter. I know y’all’s usernames. I know who’s talking trash. I can’t wait to look on Twitter right now.”
Not only is it badass that a teenager isn’t letting mean comments mess with her head, but the resilience, positivity, and poise Gauff exhibited in her speech were pretty damn cool to witness.
Her inspirational journey, from a fan in the stands to a US Open champ.
If you didn’t know much about Gauff before this weekend, she actually first shot to fame after defeating one of her idols, Venus Williams, at Wimbledon back in 2019—at only 15 years old! But that technically wasn’t her first time appearing at a major match.
A viral throwback video circulating online shows an adorable eight-year-old Gauff cheering and dancing from the bleachers at the 2012 US Open. Little did tiny Coco know that a decade later, she would be the center of attention as the crowd went wild for her.
Her willingness to be vulnerable.
Tennis is a famously hard sport, mentally, to compete in, and being compared to GOATs like Serena Williams and having all eyes on you adds a ton of additional pressure and stress. It’s no surprise, then, that Gauff has dealt with her fair share of frustration and disappointment when she doesn’t perform as well as she’d hoped.
In a vulnerable BBC Sports column published in January, she reflected on the life-changing perspective shift that has helped her manage these tough feelings. “I do think you can accomplish great things at any age—but for your own mental well-being, you have to remind yourself you will fail and make some silly mistakes,” Gauff wrote. “Now I’m trying to tell myself to enjoy my wins a little bit more.”
Developing a healthy mindset about life’s setbacks is tough at any age, but for a teenager to have that perspective is even more impressive.
Her commitment to social justice.
Just weeks after the murder of George Floyd in June 2020, Gauff delivered an impassioned speech in her hometown of Delray Beach, Florida. “I’ve been spending all week having tough conversations, trying to educate my non-Black friends on how they can help the movement,” a 16-year-old Gauff said at the time.
More recently, the tennis pro proudly voiced her opposition to her home state’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill , which restricts classroom discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity for many young students. “I’m against it,” Gauff told reporters last year. “These conversations are important, and for me, who has friends in the LGBTQ+ community, I couldn’t imagine not being able to talk about your identity.”
As an athlete, Gauff isn’t necessarily expected to speak out about social injustices, so the fact that she’s using her platform to fight for what’s right? Yep, another sign of a true winner.
Her refreshing relatability.
Aside from being, ya know, a major tennis star, Gauff is just like us (well, kind of). She, too, fangirls over pop singers (Justin Bieber to be specific), for example. And despite her professionalism on the court, she can also let loose on the sidelines, as evidenced by the fact that she recently (hilariously) roasted her fellow teammates’ outfits in good fun. You can see more of Gauff’s lighthearted side on her TikTok account, which is filled with dances with her siblings, spot-on Beyoncé lip syncs, and sit-down GRWM’s.
Especially in a predominantly white sport, it’s genuinely inspiring to see such a confident, expressive, fun-loving young woman like Gauff win a title and get her flowers from both fans and the tennis establishment. However you’re celebrating, Coco, we hope you’re truly proud of yourself and relishing in your hard-fought victory—perhaps with some My Hero Academia.
Originally Appeared on SELF