Wimbledon is the tournament that walks the tightrope between history and innovation better than any other. One of the country’s most historic venues, now infused with the latest sporting technology. An event experience still defined by standing in a queue, but where that queue has become an experience in itself. A tournament perennially won by a small group of players (in the men’s draw it is now 17 years since the tournament was won by someone not named Federer, Nadal, Djokovic or Murray) but where the greatest excitement is undoubtedly reserved for the underdogs and the giant killers.
As the tournament moves into its second week, that contrast between old and the new couldn’t be more prominent. Serena Williams continues to look right at home at SW19, and her pairing with Andy Murray is one of the main attractions of the tournament heading. In the men’s draw, for the first time ever there are more players over 30 in the 4th round than under.
But these examples pale in comparison to the true story of Wimbledon 2019 so far – the incredible rise of a fifteen year old prodigy taking the women’s draw by storm.
Coco Gauff is undoubtedly the break-out star of Wimbledon so far. Her precocious talent, her athleticism, her bravery and her excitement are all infectious in the extreme. Whatever happens in her fourth-round match today, such is the profile of Wimbledon that the teenager from Atlanta has thrust herself to the front of global sporting consciousness, with the likes of Barack Obama and Reese Witherspoon already taking notice on social media.
From a marketer’s perspective, her story is an absolute dream. Unfancied at the outset but playing without fear or hesitation. All the talent in the world but still humble and filled with child-like excitement. She is relatable and aspirational all at the same time. It’s why some have even speculated that she could earn as much as £100m a year, were she to become a truly dominant force in the women’s game.
That figure sounds outlandish. Serena Williams earned $18m in 2018 (while taking a break from the game for pregnancy) and $27m in 2017, according to Forbes. The vast majority of those earnings coming from brand endorsements earned based on years of dominance. The idea of Coco Gauff one day earning four times Serena’s 2017 earnings feels like a significant leap.
But aside from her newfound star power, Gauff has one huge advantage. The tides of history are unquestionably shifting in favor of women’s sport, and were she to become a dominant tennis champion in the next ten years, she would have a chance to ride that wave to a whole new level of fame.
It feels incredibly apt that Coco’s rise has coincided with the later stages of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. A brilliant tournament, the World Cup has given women’s football a huge new platform and looks set to make stars of the likes of Megan Rapinoe, Ellen White and many more. With the women’s Ashes also underway and the Netball World Cup in England starting this week, it is no wonder this summer has been described as ‘the crescendo’ for women’s sport.
While it still lags behind in terms of investment and attention, women’s sport is clearly on the rise. This is the season for getting ahead of ourselves, but if her Wimbledon heroics prove to be more than a flash in the pan, Coco Gauff could become one of the true stars of women’s sport over the next decade. From an endorsement perspective, that would make her one of the hottest properties in all of sport and suddenly, £100m might not look so crazy after all.