Despite making a first round exit at the Citi Open, rising tennis star Coco Gauff took a break from the courts on Thursday to meet and swap autographs with one of her role models, Michelle Obama.
In their photo, the world No. 146 posted a photo with her personalized copy of Obama’s 2018 memoir, “Becoming,” while the former First Lady held up an autographed racquet. In Gauff’s memoir copy, Obama wrote, “I wish you courage, strength, joy and love on your journey to become more.”
The 15-year-old Gauff captured the world’s attention in her Wimbledon debut when she reached the fourth round. She opened the tournament with a straight sets victory over one of her idols, Venus Williams.
At a Wimbledon press conference last month, Gauff named Michelle Obama as one of her role models. The Delray Beach native said that her off-court role models “shape [her] personality.”
At this week’s Citi Open in D.C., Gauff won both of her qualifying matches in singles to reach the main draw, but fell to Zarina Diyas in her first round match in straight sets. The American still has a chance to win her first WTA title, as she and doubles partner Caty McNally play in the semifinals on Friday.
Tennis fans are still waiting to see if Gauff will be allowed to compete at the U.S. Open, which begins at the end of the month. Since 1994, the Women’s Tennis Association has upheld a rule, created to protect younger players from burnout, that players under the age of 16 can play only 10 tournaments per year. This year, the WTA has allowed the 15-year-old to play in 12 events.
U.S. Open officials are also planning to “bend the rules” to allow Gauff a spot into the final Grand Slam of the year by awarding her a wildcard, though she has already used her three allotted at the Miami Open, French Open qualifiers and Wimbledon qualifiers.
“We would expect to see Coco in the main draw of the U.S. Open,” USTA director of communications Chris Widmaier told the New York Post. “She certainly won the hearts of tennis fans in our country with her Wimbledon performance. It’s not every day an athlete of her age becomes water cooler talk.”