Coco Gauff glowed in her praise for Serena Williams this week US Openas the 23-time major champion retired Friday night.
The 18-year-old Gauff also praised the Australian Nick Kyrgios in her Friday press conference in Flushing Meadows. The teenage star recalled the Miami Open several times, where despite being on the court for hours, Kyrgios decided to bat with her.
The first encounter came when she was 13 years old. Kyrgios, who had just completed a training session, stayed around 30 minutes to bat with the rising American star. Gauff was even more shocked the following year when Kyrgios completed a grueling two-hour workout Frances Tiafoe and although he thought he was going to call it a day at the office, the Australian practiced with Gauff for an extra hour.
“I know he does things on the pitch that people don’t agree with. I probably don’t agree with some things,” Gauff said. “But it’s just things like [hitting with a young kid] that strikes me. That’s why I feel like I can never hate him because when I see him he keeps saying hello.
“It’s just moments like this where people don’t really see him. So I think people portray him as a villain. I feel on the premises, at least my experience with him, he’s not.
Gauff confirms those experiences with Kyrgios as part of their development as a teenager, adding that the world No. 25 even offered a word of encouragement about her game.
“I think in the end batting with him helped me as a player in the long run,” she said. “He told me good things about my game. At that time I thought: ‘Nick Kyrgios thinks I’m a good player.’ You start to believe that and gain confidence in it.”
Little did Kyrgios know that the young teenager he trained with would one day share the largest tennis court in the world. Arthur Ashe Stadium, with him in the fourth round of the last slam of the season. On Sunday, both Gauff and Kyrgios are aiming for the quarter-finals US Open. The Australian meets the number 1 in the world Daniel Medvedev in a blockbuster match on Sunday night, and according to Gauff, she will be a lifelong supporter of Kyrgios.
“If he keeps this up I think he can go far. He can win the tournament. We all know he has the ability to do it. He was close Wimbledon. To be honest, I’m always, always after him, no matter who he’s playing,” Gauff said.