LeBron James, Serena Williams: Coco Gauff names her role models

Coco Gauff's role models Serena Williams and LeBron James

Coco Gauff has listed basketball star LeBron James and tennis legend Serena Williams as her role models. 

The 18-year-old has been using her platform at the French Open to promote social change. 

After beating Italy’s Martina Trevisan in the semi-finals at Roland-Garros, Gauff wrote “Peace – end gun violence” on the lens of a broadcast camera. 

“I really didn’t know what I was going to write even [in the] moments walking to the camera,” she said. “It just felt right in that moment to write that.”

“I woke up this morning, you know, and I saw there was another shooting, and I think it’s just crazy.”

Her message came after a number of shootings in the United States, with 19 children and two teachers killed by a gunman in Texas last week. 

“I think that this is a problem in other parts of the world, but especially in America it’s a problem that’s, frankly, been happening over some years but obviously now it’s getting more attention,” said Gauff.

“For me, it’s important, just as a person in the world, regardless of being a tennis player or not.

“It was just especially important just being in Europe and being where I know people globally around the world are for sure watching.”

The world number 23 also listed James, Williams, Naomi Osaka, Colin Kaepernick and Billie Jean King among her role models, due to their determination to speak out about social change. 

Tennis stars Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka

“I feel like a lot of times we’re put in a box that people always say, ‘sports and politics should stay separate’,” Gauff said. 

“I say yes, but also at the same time I’m a human first before I’m a tennis player. Of course I’m going to care about these issues and speak out about these issues.

“If anything, sports gives you the platform to maybe make that message reach more people.”

Gauff is the youngest finalist at Roland Garros since Kim Clijsters in 2001. She will play world number one Iga Świątek in her first ever Grand Slam final.

The 21-year-old Świątek is considered the favourite after winning her past 34 matches and five tournaments.

“I’m just going to play free and play my best tennis. I think in a Grand Slam final anything can happen,” said Gauff.

“She’s not going to give you much opportunities. Watching her play, I think she does a great job of changing direction and hitting angles off the court, and hitting winners – she’s always hitting winners.”

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