TORONTO – Despite being retired for more than two years, Tom Tebbutt’s passion for journalism remains unwavering, especially when he’s watching stars like newly-minted U.S. Open champion Coco Gauff.
Tebbutt has been impressed with the 19-year-old American from when the Atlanta native was still playing on the junior circuit.
“I remember watching her in the juniors, I don’t know, it was 2019 at the US Open [and] she’s a terrific athlete, and very, very mature for her age.”
After wrapping up his time with the Globe and Mail in 2011, Tebbutt moved on to Tennis Canada, where he could combine his passion for both journalism and tennis. The timing in which he made the switch was almost kismet, as the talent that was on the horizon became historic for Canada.
“I started when Milos Raonic first broke through in 2011. And then Bouchard came along in 2012 and then 2014 I think she was in the Wimbledon final. And then Dennis and Felix [Auger Aliassime] came along and then Leila [Fernandez] and Bianca [Andreescu]. It was sort of a real gravy train of success, it was ridiculous almost.”
Bianca Andrescu, 2019 US Open winner, who took out Serena Williams in the final, was also 19 years old when she claimed her first Grand Slam. Tebbutt was able to explain what he believes the difference is between Andrescu’s success and what Gauff may be able to achieve.
“Players can come along very, very young and then do well, but others, you know, come along very young and sort of flame out.” Tebbutt proclaims, “I think it was lucky that [Coco] took a sort of slower route to her success. Because we’ve seen with Bianca, we’ve seen with the rest of Canada…in some way, something a lot of players like that have [is they] had their success and [have] not been able to confirm it.”
Gauff is different
It is apparent that Gauff is different from many young talented athletes that come through the pipeline. Her maturity serves as a testament to her life experience.
“I like [Coco’s] social stances,” said Tebbutt, “[I think] it’s really commendable and really impressive for somebody so young, and she was doing this two years ago in some of the George Floyd efforts she was involved in, I think it is incredible. She has always conducted herself and spoke so well which is very impressive.”
Gauff has articulated how being a Black woman can influence one’s interactions with the world, as she conveyed to NPR that it can lead to “settling for less.” It’s evident that Gauff’s maturity and composure are not the product of media coaching.
Tebbutt, recognizing Gauff’s potential, believes that she possesses all the qualities necessary for a successful professional tennis career.
“If she can reach the top of her game and maintain her positive social conscience she will undoubtedly have a very promising future in women’s tennis.”
Gauff’s journey not only exemplifies her skill on the court but also her commitment to making a lasting impact, both as an athlete and as an advocate for change.