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Coco Gauff's former coach reflects on early years, talent

Mark Williams coached US Open champ from ages 9 to 11
Coco Gauff cries on court after defeating Aryna Sabalenka to win U.S. Open, Sept. 9, 2023
Posted at 12:27 PM, Sep 10, 2023

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — The city of Delray Beach and tennis fans in South Florida are celebrating a hometown hero.

Delray Beach's Coco Gauff won the U.S. Open at just 19 years old.

Coco Gauff, of Delray Beach, poses for photographs after defeating Aryna Sabalenka, of Belarus, at the women's singles final of the U.S. Open tennis championships on Saturday in New York.

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WPTV spoke with the man who coached her when she was learning the ropes of the game.

Mark Williams said he coached her from ages 9 to 11 at the Delray Beach Tennis Center.

A few years after Coco Gauff moved to Delray Beach, Mark Williams was her coach from ages 9 to 11 at the Delray Beach Tennis Center. Sept. 10, 2023
A few years after Coco Gauff moved to Delray Beach, Mark Williams was her coach from ages 9 to 11 at the Delray Beach Tennis Center.

Sunday morning, while Williams was coaching his first-ever client, he spoke to WPTV about Gauff's talent.

"I was crying like her father was crying. It was amazing," Williams said about her most recent victory.

She defeated Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka on Saturday.

Williams is still in awe of her win but said she's always shined on the court.

"She was a little something then," he said about the time he coached her about a decade ago. "Now, she's grown tall, but the tenacity and the ability to keep fighting over and over again."

He said those skills gave her that first Grand Slam title.

Her family was also watching, including her grandmother Yvonne Odom.

"I'm so glad she played well," she said.

Gauff, who born in Atlanta, began playing tennis at 6. When she was 7, her family moved back to Delray Beach to have better training opportunities.

Coco’s family and friends watch party at Bar25 in Delray Beach. Sept. 9, 2023

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For tennis players and fans in Delray Beach, like Williams, this is a moment filled with joy on and off the court.

"One hundred percent," he said. "Everybody here in Delray is super proud of all her accomplishments. She's a total inspiration to not just black young girls around the country, but people from all around the world."