At just 15 years old, Cori "Coco" Gauff became the youngest woman to win a Women's Tennis Association title since 2004 (and the youngest American to do so in 28 years) by winning Austria's Linz Open on Sunday.
Gauff, who in July became the youngest player to ever qualify for Wimbledon, beat former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in three sets to win her first WTA singles title and take home $43,000 in prize money.
The victory on Sunday was hard-fought for Gauff, who received some much-needed advice from her father and coach, Corey Gauff, who helped his daughter regroup after she had lost the second set of the match to the more experienced, 22-year-old Ostapenko.
With his daughter leading 5-2 in the third set of the match, and needing to win just one more game to finish off Ostapenko, Corey Gauff knelt beside Coco to offer her some calming advice as television network Eurosport's cameras caught the conversation.
"Just relax, you're not going to sprint to the finish line," Gauff's father and coach told her. "We're going to walk to the finish line, OK?"
The elder Gauff went on to tell his daughter it was important to trust her abilities on the court in order to think positively and not let the pressure of the potentially historic moment throw her off her game.
"What I want you to do is take your mind to another place right now. Remember we talked about that?" Gauff asked the tennis star.
"Take your mind to another place, take yourself to a practice match, just play. Don't think about negatives, just think about positives," Gauff told his daughter.
He also added that Coco Gauff was in a strong position to win the match, assuming she could mentally remove herself from the pressure of the situation in order to remain calm and trust her skills to defeat her opponent. "You're right where we want to be," he says on the video released by Eurosport.
Gauff also gave his daughter some more specific advice, telling her to hit the ball to her opponent's backhand side, but the pep talk certainly seemed to help calm Coco Gauff enough to allow her to finish out the victory. Returning to the court, Gauff won the next game against Ostapenko to win the match.
After the match, the young tennis phenom told reporters how the advice from her father-slash-coach had helped her out of stressful spot.
"He was trying to calm me down because he knew I was nervous and I was close to the finish line and I needed to close out," Gauff said in an interview with CNN Sport after the match. "He was telling me to kind of swing for my shots, and go for my shots."
Of course, Gauff's father isn't the only person to posit that staying calm and thinking positively will lead to success. Anxiety can produce psychological fatigue that distracts from whatever task you're trying to complete, whether that be winning a tennis tournament or simply finishing an important project at work, says Stanford psychologist Emma Seppala. And none other than former president Barack Obama has advocated for what he describes as "relentless optimism" as a means for overcoming adversity and achieving success.
A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Gauff has been playing tennis since she was 6 years old. She now lives and trains in Delray Beach, Florida. Gauff made headlines earlier this year by defeating one of her idols, Venus Williams, at Wimbledon (Gauff made it as far as the fourth round of play at Wimbledon and then reached the third round of the U.S. Open in September).
After this weekend's victory, Gauff has won over $530,000 in total prize money in 2019, according to the WTA.
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