Coco Gauff column: How TikTok and Jaden Smith help escape Australian Open pressure

Coco Gauff column for BBC Sport

Coco Gauff, who shot to fame by reaching the Wimbledon last 16 as a 15-year-old in 2019, is the latest leading WTA Tour player to write a BBC Sport column.

In her latest piece before the Australian Open fourth round, the American seventh seed talks about her other role as a TikTok trendsetter and how her dad became a viral sensation.

Professional tennis can be a tough business so it is important to find a way to unwind – I love to do that by creating videos on TikTok.

I find it the best way to escape from tennis. Maybe some people think there are better ways to escape from things but that is the Gen Z way!

It’s the only app where I’m not necessarily seen as a tennis player. Some people who follow me don’t even know I play tennis.

Obviously people follow me on Instagram and Twitter, which is mainly all tennis content, whereas I rarely post tennis content on TikTok. I only put stuff there if I can make it funny.

I had a viral dance which had millions of views. Nobody knew it was my dance – that’s my fun fact.

I made it as a joke and influencers with millions of followers were doing the dance and some of them were crediting me. So maybe I’m a trendsetter on TikTok!

It’s not the only dance I’ve had go viral, in fact I had one this week which had two million views.

The reason that went viral was because of my dad! Everyone is loving the video of him doing a dance – mainly because he wasn’t that good at it.

My dad claims he doesn’t like the attention but I think he secretly loves it. He’s the type of guy who likes to make people laugh.

He’s definitely playing into it! He did a remake after the first video and if I asked him to do another video, I’m sure he would.

The video was a trend to ‘party next door’ and everyone is doing it with their parents, but I think I was the first person to not teach them the dance, I told them just to copy me.

I think that is the reason why it blew up because I created my own trend – and maybe because people thought my dad was trash.

When I told my dad it had gone viral and how many views it had, he said: “What does viral mean? And do I get a cheque?” He needs to get paid!

Coco Gauff celebrates winning the 2019 Linz Open with her parents Candi and Corey
Gauff celebrated winning her first WTA title as a 15-year-old in 2019 with her parents Candi and Corey, when she beat Jelena Ostapenko – her last-16 opponent in Melbourne on Sunday – in the Linz final

How listening to Jaden, The Weeknd & J Cole puts me in the zone

People will have seen that when I walk out onto court I usually have my headphones on.

Doing this really started at Wimbledon in 2019 – where I made my breakthrough when I was 15 – because I didn’t want to hear the crowd when I walked on.

I didn’t do it in the qualifying matches, it just started with the main draw. I didn’t want to hear the crowd because I thought it would make me more nervous and you will see looking back I always walked in with my head down.

Even now I’m older and more experienced, wearing the headphones and listening to hype music is something which has stuck.

Now I have transitioned from walking with my head down to looking up at the crowd. I feel I have now become comfortable enough to give the fans a little wave, too. Sometimes I won’t, it depends on how nervous I am feeling.

The only time I don’t wear my headphones is if I forget them.

I turn the volume down so I know when I’m being told to walk out of the tunnel and then I switch the music back up to full blast.

It’s not really a superstition thing, I’d say I’m not a superstition person.

The final song I play – the one which really gets me pumped as I walk out – changes from tournament to tournament.

But so far this year I have gone back to my roots – I’m playing Icon by Jaden Smith. That’s what I was listening to at Wimbledon in 2019.

I really love this song. The instrument playing at the start gets me pumped up and the song makes me feel like an icon!

I’m into all types of music but my number one artist on my wrap last year was The Weeknd. Then it was Jaden, followed by J Cole. They were my top three artists last year and who I listened to the most.

This year I’ve also been listening to a lot of Childish Gambino.

I’m the type of person who will wear out one artist on one trip and then I associate that music with a specific trip.

You get one album that you love and you just keep repeating it – I’m sure a lot of people will relate to that.

That was me with the SZA album in Auckland, that’s all I listened to. I had three weeks of that so it was time to change it up again.

But it was the soundtrack to me winning the title in Auckland, so now I’m hoping Childish Gambino can be the soundtrack for an even bigger trophy here in Melbourne.

Coco Gauff was talking to BBC Sport’s Jonathan Jurejko at Melbourne Park.

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Coco’s previous columns from Melbourne

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