Coco Gauff almost took year off from tennis while battling depression caused by fame: 'I was just lost'

Coco Gauff became a tennis sensation almost overnight in 2019. She became the first 15 year old to break into the top 50 WTA rankings in 15 years and her upset win over Venus Williams at Wimbledon had people in awe. All the attention and pressure was not always healthy for Gauff, however. She opened up about struggling with depression as a result of it all in a piece for Behind the Racquet this week.

The mental toll fame took on Gauff caused her to consider stepping away from the game for some time. The now 16-year-old is still being dubbed the next great star in tennis, but with all eyes on her and the stress that came with it, she found herself not enjoying tennis like she had before. In her first major championship appearance, she reached the fourth round of Wimbledon and reached the fourth round in her Australian Open debut as well.

She was on top of the tennis world, but inside Gauff was struggling

"Throughout my life, I was always the youngest to do things, which added hype that I didn't want. It added this pressure that I needed to do well fast," she wrote. "Right before Wimbledon, going back to around 2017/18, I was struggling to figure out if this was really what I wanted. I always had the results, so that wasn't the issue. I just found myself not enjoying what I loved."

With all the attention on her, Gauff felt that she was making her journey about other people, but needed to shift that narrative.

From her Behind the Racquet piece: 

"I realized I needed to start playing for myself and not other people," she wrote. "For about a year, I was really depressed. That was the toughest year for me so far... When you are in that dark mindset you don't look on the bright side of things too often, which is the hardest part. I don't think it had much to do with tennis, maybe just about juggling it all. I knew that I wanted to play tennis but didn't know how I wanted to go about it. It went so far that I was thinking about possibly taking a year off to just focus on life."

In the end, Gauff was glad she didn't take time off, saying, "Choosing not to obviously was the right choice, but I was close to not going in that direction. I was just lost. I was confused and overthinking if this was what I wanted or what others did."

She believes that the process to come to that decision ultimately made her stronger. It also helped Gauff realize that she does not like being compared to Venus and Serena Williams, mostly because of how much she looks up to them. 

"First, I am not at their level yet. I always feel like it's not fair to the Williams sisters to be compared to someone who is just coming up," she wrote. "It just doesn't feel right yet. I still look at them as my idols.

Gauff ended the piece by saying that ultimately being able to properly express her emotions is what helped her get through the lows.

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