Teenage tennis sensation Coco Gauff’s fighting spirit comes from her trailblazing grandmother who has beaten cancer as well as racial prejudice, DailyMailTV can reveal.
Yvonne Odom, 73, is now in remission from stage four lung cancer and when she was Coco’s age – 15 – she enrolled as the first African-American student at a local all-white high school in 1961, making headlines like her superstar granddaughter.
Odom, a retired teacher and mother of three, is now looking after Coco’s younger brothers Codey, 11, and Cameron, six, at her home in Florida while her daughter Candi (Coco’s mother) and son-in-law Corey remain in London with Wimbledon’s latest star.
Coco – the youngest player to reach Wimbledon’s last 16 since Jennifer Capriati in 1991 – lost to Simona Halep Monday, missing out on a place in the quarter-finals.
But like millions of tennis fans grandmother Yvonne and husband Eddie, 75, have been glued to the TV watching Coco’s amazing run in this year’s championship.
They particularly enjoyed the teen’s comeback Friday against match point to claim victory against Slovenia’s Polona Hercog to make the final 16.
The proud grandma said: ‘Coco’s comeback against Polona was as dramatic as it gets but I knew she would do it.
‘When that girl sets her mind to win, she wins. She never steps on a tennis court thinking anything other than she will win.’
Yvonne texted Rihanna and Serena Williams fan Coco after the game saying ‘never say die’.
She also told her that God did not give her the spirit of fear but power and self control.
Coco comes from a deeply religious family. Coco’s great-grandfather Rev. Randolph M Lee built and founded their local church, St John Missionary Baptist in Boynton Beach.
‘The church is a big part of our lives and always has been,’ Yvonne said.
‘We joke as a family that Rev Lee is up there in heaven nudging God to make sure things go Coco’s way on that tennis court.
‘I like to send her quotes from Scripture after her games because I think it helps keep her grounded and focus.
‘When I talk to her on the phone afterwards she doesn’t get the chance to say much except, ”Thank you, grandma” because I’m the one doing all the talking.
She added: ‘Being diagnosed with lung cancer about six years ago was a terrible shock but we got through it. I fought it, I’m still here, and it’s in remission.
‘I’m grateful for every day I have and being able to see Coco doing what she’s doing right now is the ultimate gift.’
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SOURCE: Daily Mail, Ryan Parry and Grant Hodgson