Coco Gauff’s former Georgia coach on the tennis star’s success

Gauff trained in Atlanta before becoming a professional athlete.

ATLANTA – One of the greatest players in professional sports started playing right here in Atlanta.

Coco Gauff lights up the women’s tennis circuit and has inspired millions of girls around the world.

But his former coach tells 11Alive that his huge success was driven by even greater determination.

Jewel Peterson said she knew Gauff would always be a star.

Peterson would pick her up from school in 2nd grade and drive her straight to court for three hours four days a week.

Peterson has played tennis all her life and says she knows what it takes to be successful, she knew Gauff had it.

Peterson said no matter what, she wants people to love tennis as much as she does.

“First, enjoy the game because this game is going to piss you off,” she said.

She first picked up a racquet when she was four years old and says she’s grateful to all the athletes she’s had to look up to.

“When we talk about black women in tennis, there’s a long history, we can go all the way back to Athea Gibson, to my mentors, now Venus and Serena,” she said.

She says seeing these athletes compete at the highest level of the game inspires the young players in her coaching academy.

“Now they have the mindset that ‘because they did it, I can’. So it’s huge to see the women who made their mark and who came before them,” she said. declared.

Peterson was a professional athlete herself, playing in the WTA, before becoming a coach.

She started tutoring Gauff when the tennis superstar was just 8 years old.

“It was a coach’s dream! She would get in the car and fall asleep because she was 8 years old and that’s what kids do! But as soon as we got to the tennis center, she jumped, ready to go,” she said.

She watches Gauff’s career soar with pride and is even prouder of the young athlete for using her platform to speak out about social justice.

“Athletes are now celebrities when it comes to what you wear, what you eat. We all take inspiration from them for everything else, why not for social injustice,” she said.

And she’s proud of Gauff for supporting other young athletes who speak out about their own social and mental health issues.

“Simone Biles, case with Naomi Osaka, talking about mental health, and that’s really important, we want to make sure the athletes get what they need for all the pressure,” she said.

Although she no longer sees Coco three hours a day in the field, she says she still encourages her former student.

“I think she will go extremely far, I think she will be world No. 1 one day,” she said.

And she believes she’s going to be #1 because she never gives up.

Gauff was unable to compete in the Summer Olympics because she tested positive for COVID ahead of the games. Peterson said it was just a small setback for her and she knows she will come back even stronger for the next games.


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