On the latest edition of the Beyond the Baseline Podcast, host Jon Wertheim talks with Jamie Lisanti about the current tennis storylines, including 15-year-old Coco Gauff's victory and first WTA title in Linz; the upcoming WTA Finals in Shenzhen, particularly against the backdrop of the recent NBA and China headlines; Daniil Medvedev's success this fall and what it means for his future in the ATP; and much more.
Jon Wertheim: What do you think: do we finally start hyping Coco Gauff?
Jamie Lisanti: Boy, she's really making the most of her limited appearances here. It's a hard question. I think you have to remember: she's only 15, which can either be very good or very bad for the future. But she lost in qualifying to a player outside of the top 100, so I think we could be having a very different conversation right now if she doesn't get that lucky loser spot.
But that's how things go. And so she made the most of the situation, playing against Ostapenko who is a former French Open Champion, but obviously has not done too much since then. But the way that she gathered herself and talked her way out, or her father helped her talked her way out of her nerves a little bit. I think it bodes well for her just knowing that she can do something like that where she's up 5-0, and then all of a sudden it's 3-5 and she's getting nervous because she could win her first title.
JW: There's a lot to unpack there. You touched on a number of issues and I think we can take them in any order. One of them is: I can't get over that she is 15 years old. I say this as someone who has a lot of familiarity with the 15-year-old girl demographic and is very fond of it: they're wondering whether pomegranate Powerade tastes like Swedish Fish. I mean this is this is not an age that necessarily does global fame. It's a wonderful age, but the notion of seeing, my daughter on a global stage is very difficult to picture. I think the fact that Coco is limited by the age eligibility rules that we've talked about a lot, I do think that is an added dimension to this. You lose in the qualifying of Linz and you say to yourself boy, I may only have one more tournament left all year. That's really deflating. So when she gets that lucky loser spot and is back in the main draw, I think that is a reprieve that probably is a bit more intense and profound for her than it would be for a conventional player.
And then you said it: we've seen prodigies before, we've seen teenagers. I mean it predated me but we all know Jennifer Capriati's story and I think that was a lot just about physical maturity. With Jennifer Capriati, the genetic gods smiled on her and at age 14, she could hit a tennis ball really hard and the player on the other side of the net probably wasn't as big as the average opponent today. Jennifer Capriati could hold her own just ball-bashing, power-to-power.
With Coco Gauff, I think there's so much more to this and I think that's one reason why we're all the more optimistic that she isn't just a power player. This isn't just someone who matured quickly physically. I think it was there's nuance to her game. I think there is a real sort of composure. It reminds me a lot of the taxonomy in the vocabulary we're using with Andreescu you where she just seems to have that "it" quality and there's a very nice balance between self-confidence but humility and there's a very nice balance within a match of how she can play a bad point and have a rough stretch and then regroup.