Zendaya's 'Challengers' Trainer Is Also Coco Gauff's Real-Life Coach

coco gauff with coach brad gilbert
Who Is Coco Gauff's Coach? Meet Brad GilbertNew York Daily News - Getty Images

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Coco Gauff has one big support system, including her parents and boyfriend. But perhaps no one has better words of wisdom than her coach, Brad Gilbert.

The 62-year-old joined Coco's team as a consultant in late July 2023, according to the US Open, before taking over as her coach. But prior to working with Coco, Gilbert had a surprising role: He trained Zendaya and her co-stars for the buzzy new tennis drama Challengers.

According to Gilbert himself, his practices with "Z" (as he calls her) even inspired his coaching with Coco.

"Maybe she prepared me in 2022 for being ready for Coco in 2023," he told Women's Health ahead of the Challengers premiere. "Sometimes art imitates life."

Ahead, here's everything you need to know about Coco Gauff's coach, Brad Gilbert.

Brad Gilbert is a former professional tennis player.

He played from 1982 to 1995, per ESPN. He played in college at Pepperdine, where he was an All American and the NCAA singles finalist in 1982.

Gilbert went on to play professionally, always finishing high in the overall rankings. In 1989, he finished #6, and in 1990, he finished at #10. That same year, he accomplished his highest ranking of #4.

Other career accomplishments include quarterfinal appearances at the US Open in 1987 and at Wimbledon in 1990.

He won a bronze medal at the 1988 Olympics.

Gilbert also competed for the United States at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, per ATP Tour. He lost to fellow American Tim Mayotte 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.

coco gauff with coach brad gilbert
Brad Gilbert coaching Coco Gauff during practice ahead of the GNP Seguros WTA Finals Cancun 2023 this past October.Robert Prange - Getty Images

Gilbert has coached several top players over the years.

Coco is just the latest accomplished tennis players to receive Gilbert's guidance. He has previously coached Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, and Andy Murray.

Gilbert coached Andre Agassi from 1994 to 2002—during which time, Agassi won six Grand Slam titles and an Olympic Gold Medal, according to ESPN. He also reached the #1 spot in the world for the first time in his career. In 2003, Gilbert coached Andy Roddick to win his US Open title and the top spot in the rankings.

tennis coach brad gilbert
Brad Gilbert watching Coco Gauff play during day 6 of the GNP Seguros WTA Finals Cancun 2023.Clive Brunskill - Getty Images

He’s an ESPN tennis analyst.

Before coaching Coco, Gilbert was a tennis analyst and sideline reporter for ESPN. He started with the sports entertainment company in 2004, before taking a break to coach Andy Murray. He returned to his role in 2008.

Gilbert trained Zendaya and her co-stars for their film "Challengers."

In 2022, Gilbert took on a surprising new position: He worked as a coach to Zendaya, Mike Faist, and Josh O'Connor as they prepared to play tennis champs in the Luca Guadagnino film Challengers.

To get Zendaya camera-ready, he and his wife Kim Gilbert (who also worked as a consultant on the film) sent the actress hours of tapes, focusing on matches from some of the strongest players in the world (think Naomi Osaka, Venus Williams, and Maria Sharapova). They then completed three months of training in Malibu, followed by six weeks of rehearsals in Boston.

During practice, each actor would train on a separate court with an individual coach. They’d shadow the movements of each point, which Gilbert and Guadagnino had written out, labeled, and timed.

“We would literally [go], ‘Okay, let's practice the body movements of this six-ball rally. We would number the points: ‘No. 26, boom, let’s work on that today. Let’s work on the movements and choreograph it together. This is how the point is going to play out,’” he told WH. “I think that helped the actors [to say], ‘This is what I need to do for each one of these points.’”

Zendaya and Coco still haven’t met, though Brad says the actress “really wants” to. The same goes for the tennis star: Coco was “bummed” when she lost in the semi-finals of the 2024 Indian Wells Masters, since it meant she couldn’t meet Zendaya (who attended the finals), he said.

Gilbert had taken a break from coaching when Coco reached out.

Before Challengers, Brad hadn’t coached at the elite level for nearly a decade, per the New York Times. But when the movie wrapped in 2022, he began looking for a new player to train, one that “shared his hunger,” the publication said.

Around a year later, he got a call from Coco's team, who was looking for some wisdom after losing in the first round of Wimbledon 2023.

"I had some offers, but I will say I was looking for the right player," Gilbert told the US Open in 2023. "I definitely was thinking about coaching, but I was mostly thinking about the possibility of [coaching] a young American."

coco gauff brad gilbert us open tennis championship 2023
Coco Gauff and coach Brad Gilbert hugging after she won the US Open in September 2023.Tim Clayton - Corbis - Getty Images

Since Gilbert joined as a consultant (and then coach), Coco has won the Mubadala Citi Open and the US Open. Ultimately, he attributes some of their successes to his work with Zendaya the prior year.

“I think maybe she prepared me in 2022 for being ready for Coco in 2023. Sometimes art imitates life,” he told WH. “My role as a coach in [Challengers] was to get them ready. In tennis, it’s to get your player ready for tournaments and the run…there’s a goal and a focus. We had a short period of time to make it happen. When we went to film, we were ready to rock.”

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