Cori Gauff grew up idolizing Venus and Serena Williams. In fact, Serena is "the reason why I play tennis," the 15-year-old American phenom told BBC Sport.
Today, as the youngest player ever to qualify for Wimbledon, Gauff is not only competing in the same tournament as her heroes — she's winning. On Monday, in the first round of play, she beat Venus in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
"I've been dreaming to share the court with Venus," she said in a prematch interview. As for a win over the veteran champion, "I never thought this would happen," Gauff told BBC after the match. "I don't know how to explain it. I'm literally living my dream. Not many people get to say that."
Venus, at 39, has seven Grand Slam titles under her belt, including five at the All England Club. She was looking for her 90th Wimbledon singles win in this match.
Gauff, the youngest player in the women's singles draw, is still in high school. She took a science test the night before the finals of the qualifying tournament, which she had to win to earn a spot in the main draw.
Thanks to the press, a few of her teachers now know about her budding tennis career. "After I made the main draw here, two of my teachers found out I play tennis," she said. "They saw my name in an article. I have three other teachers that don't know I play tennis. I'm not really the type of person to talk about myself, so I still think they don't know."
Gauff, who will play Magdalena Rybarikova in the second round of the tournament, remained poised throughout today's match, despite the stakes. "I definitely had to tell myself to stay calm during the match," she told BBC. "I never played on a court that's so big. I had to remind myself that the lines are the same size as any other court."
"When we shook hands she told me congratulations and to keep going and good luck," Gauff said. "I said 'thank you for everything you've done' — I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her."
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