When ESPN analyst and former professional tennis player Mary Joe Fernández asked 19-year-old Coco Gauff what it meant to her to win her first Grand Slam title during the trophy presentation ceremony at the U.S. Open on Saturday, she wasted no time in reflecting on the role her faith had played in the journey.
“It means so much to me. I feel like I’m a little bit in shock at this moment,” she told Fernández in her on-court interview as she gathered her thoughts.
“You know that French Open loss was a heartbreak for me. But I realize, you know, God puts you through tribulations and trials and this makes this moment more sweeter than I could imagine.”
Since breaking onto the world stage at the age of 15 with a win over tennis legend Venus Williams at Wimbledon in 2019, there have been high expectations for Gauff to win a Grand Slam title, but she struggled to do so.
Though she made her first Grand Slam final at the French Open in Roland-Garros in 2022, she lost to Iga Swiatek of Poland. In 2023, she was ousted by Swiatek in the fourth round at Roland Garros and lost in the first round at Wimbledon to American Sofia Kenin.
Shortly before the U.S. Open trophy presentation ceremony started, a now-viral video captured on live television after her 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over new world No. 1 women’s tennis player, Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, showed Gauff bowing on her knees in prayer.
“We saw you say a prayer, get on your knees. You have a lot of faith. How important has that been through this journey for you?” Fernández asked.
“You know it’s been so important,” Gauff replied. “You know I don’t pray for results. I just ask that I get the strength to give it my all and whatever happens, happens. I’m so blessed in this life. So I’m so thankful for this moment. I don’t have any words for it, to be honest.”
It was no surprise then when many Christians who saw Gauff’s prayer and know how vocal she has been about her faith responded when ESPN’s flagship program, SportsCenter, noted in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Gauff had merely taken a moment to “soak it all in after winning her first Grand Slam title.”
Tony Dungy, the first black NFL coach to win a Super Bowl, was among the first in a number of Christian leaders to correct ESPN’s description of Gauff’s prayer.
“I hate to break this to you SportsCenter but Coco Gauff was not ‘soaking it all in’ at this moment. She was praying,” he noted on X. “She has been very open about her Christian faith in the past. It seems pretty obvious what she is doing here.”
I hate to break this to you SportsCenter but Coco Gauff was not “soaking it all in” at this moment. She was praying. She has been very open about her Christian faith in the past. It seems pretty obvious what she is doing here. https://t.co/UOZ6zoCEPC— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) September 10, 2023
The following pages highlight how other Christians reacted.