Why U.S. Open Champion Coco Gauff Practices Yoga

The 19-year-old tennis phenom understands its benefits, on and off the court.

Photo: Tim Clayton | Corbis | Getty Images

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It seems fitting that last week, tennis phenom Cori “Coco” Gauff became the youngest American to advance to the U.S. Open singles final since Serena Williams in 1999. Gauff, 19, has long been vocal about her admiration of Williams, asserting the 23-time Grand Slam winner is the greatest tennis player of all time and citing Williams’ career as an inspiration for her own. “Being in the same stat line as her means a lot to me,” Gauff told ESPN. “She is my idol.”

Off the court, the two athletes have another practice in common: yoga. Although the two players both include the practice in their workout regimens, they vary rather dramatically in their approaches.

Williams, who retired from the sport in 2022, has made no secret about how much she enjoys  doing yoga. Back in 2010, Williams shared with Vogue, “When I’m not playing tennis, I like to do yoga and Pilates.” Ten years later, Williams gave the world a glimpse of her morning yoga routine in a time-lapse video on Instagram in which she ran through a sequence that included Downward Dog, High Lunge, and Lizard as she worked her way up to practicing Side Splits.

Gauff isn’t quite so passionate about her practice. The young star, who is poised to compete in the second Grand Slam final of her career, hasn’t been shy in expressing her feelings about flowing on the mat. In a video interview with Vogue, Gauff shared some of the behind-the-scenes details of her pre-tournament routine, which includes taking time off from training. “Because I work out so much, when I do have a day off, I don’t want to do anything,” Gauff said. “Maybe like yoga or something. I don’t like yoga. But I just do it because I know it’s good for you.”

In a 2021 interview with POPSUGAR, Gauff explained that she practices Plank because she knows the benefits outweigh the pain. Both Gauff and Williams are part of a larger club of tennis players—including Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal—who practice yoga regularly. In addition to helping with flexibility and balance, which are necessary for success on the court, yoga can also enhance mental focus and help athletes manage reactions to stressful situations.

There might also be less obvious benefits to her yoga practice. Gauff has been lauded for her composure, especially compared to other professional players her age. Yet she’s also opened up about her struggles with the mental pressures of being on the pro circuit at such a young age. ESPN reported that Gauff experienced a “dark mindset,” and in a recent interview with Vogue, she shared some of the things that help her cope. In addition to having a therapist, Gauff prioritizes wellness and balance. That includes pushing herself to step back from tennis and take time to do things for herself, whether that’s a mani-pedi or heading to the beach.

“When my mind is clear,” she said, “I’m able to play a lot clearer as well.”

The emphasis that yoga places on focus, breathwork, and a greater awareness of self may also play a small role in her ability to clear her mind. Whatever the benefit, measurable or otherwise, Gauff gets that yoga can improve her game. And maybe, with time, she’ll even come to like it.

About Our Contributor

Nina Friend is a New York-based writer who covers food, drink, travel, lifestyle, and sports. Nina’s work has appeared in Vogue, Air Mail, Bon Appétit, Cherry Bombe, Food & Wine, The BBC, and NBC Sports, among other publications.

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