“I felt that she was someone so driven, so much confidence in her ability and that wanted it so much that I felt she had the complete package to reach the top of the game,” the French coach, who is the founder of the Mouratoglou Academy and Ultimate Tennis Showdown, told CNN Sport’s Patrick Snell.
“When she left the office, I told the guys: ‘This one, we take her with us and she can be great’.”
Gauff had not ventured outside of the United States before travelling to the French Riviera to join the academy, where she made quite an impression on Mouratoglou.
“The fitness test was incredible for her age,” he added. “Her competitiveness when it came to playing matches against other players was impressive. She was able to beat players that were technically better than her because of her competitiveness.”
The 19-year-old has had a glittering start to her tennis career, racking up titles in both singles and doubles and putting the world on notice as a teenager.
“Coco has been making history since she was a kid, literally,” said Mouratoglou. “At 13 and a half years old she was in the finals of the US Open in juniors. At 14 she was winning Roland Garros in juniors.”
Gauff became a household name when she became the youngest person in the Open Era to make the main draw at Wimbledon and defeated tennis great, Venus Williams when they played in the first round match. Gauff made it as far as the fourth round before being knocked out by Simona Halep, the eventual champion.
Gauff’s early success was a sign of things to come. She is fresh off the biggest victory of her career, defeating the now world No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka in three hard-fought sets to claim the 2023 US Open singles title. Her maiden major triumph was the latest development in a career that appears to be on fast-forward.
Her unwavering mentality is the driving force behind her success – after suffering a disappointing first-round exit at Wimbledon in July, Gauff was determined to bounce back and said: “Defeat makes me want to work even harder.” The following month, she claimed impressive victories at events in both Washington D.C. and Cincinnati.
She entered New York heavily tipped as a contender and, despite the burden of the expectations surrounding her, and the weight of being a home favorite, Gauff dealt with everything thrown at her to emerge as a grand slam champion.
“She has learned to deal with [the pressure] at a young age, and that explains partly her ability to win her first grand slam final at only 19 years old,” said Mouratoglou.
The 53-year-old has never been Gauff’s official coach during her professional career, though they have worked together in the past (notably in the run-up to this year’s French Open) and she has been training at his academy for nine years.
“She can still improve so much – which is a good thing, by the way – in many aspects of her game, but I think with her drive, her team, her motivation and her abilities, she definitely can win a few [more majors],” added Mouratoglou.
“Americans say, ‘Sky’s the limit.’ I don’t see any limit and I would not give her any limits.”
Mouratoglou is no stranger to working with champion-level talent, having previously guided Serena Williams to 10 major titles and a career golden slam.
Gauff has spoken in the past about how she grew up idolising the Williams sisters and Mouratoglou highlighted how effective the siblings have been as trailblazers in the sport and that the new US Open champion “aligns” with the example they have set.
“I think the Williams sisters have inspired a lot of African Americans and Black people in general,” he said. “Before them, very few people of color have been at the top of the game in that sport.
“You feel it’s not a place for you because you don’t see any people that look like you there. And I think Venus and Serena really opened a big gate for people of color in that sport, and that’s amazing.
“When you see someone that looks like you, who is winning grand slams, making history, and there are two of them, you think, ‘maybe it’s possible for me, too.’
And that’s the inspiration.”
Mouratoglou, who has also worked with men’s tennis stars such as Stefanos Tsitsipas and Holger Rune, was full of praise for Serena Williams, who he describes as “bigger than tennis.”
“She’s advocated a lot for women in general, for the rights of women, for mothers, and also for equality in general,” said Mouratoglou. “She’s always talked loud about those things.
“She has helped women in sports be more respected.”
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