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Tennis.com Podcast with Kamau Murray: CoCo Vandeweghe is still here
The American mainstay has never shied away from anything, and this interview with Kamau Murray is no exception.
Published May 05, 2023
WATCH: Vandeweghe visited the Tennis Channel Live Desk after a win in Charleston last year.
Coco Vandeweghe was built for this. She is compromised almost exclusively of high-end athletic DNA, with a lineage that dates back several generations and crosses many different sports. Basketball, swimming and now tennis have been shellshocked by the Vandeweghes. And yet one in particular goes against the grain more than most. Coco Vandeweghe brings a lot of things to her profession, and a nontraditional approach is one of them. She fights hard, she enjoys herself, and she uses a “take no prisoners” approach to get everything out of her career.
At 31 years old, the former Top 10 player has been through a lot of triumphs and tribulations. But she keeps coming back for more, and as Kamau Murray found out on this podcast, the flame still burns bright in her tennis soul.
The first topic of conversation set the tone for a lively, entertaining discussion. Murray said point blankly that the tour misses the SoCal native because everyone hugs and smiles after a loss, which got an enthusiastic thumbs up from the guest.
“I don’t get it. I did not grow up in that era of anyone liking each other ever,” Vandeweghe said. “It’s very different to see the, everyone had a good tournament and everyone had a good match, let’s hug it out. It’s just, it’s weird to me.”
Vandeweghe clearly respects her opponent, but she wants to win above all else. She’s not out there to make friends and will wear her frustrations and disappointments on her sleeve. Once notable experience against a legend of the sport was a prime example of this.
“There was like this zoom in of my face after I lost to Venus in the semis of Australia, and I’m like stone cold pissed,” she recalled. “I lost the opportunity to play for a grand slam, why would I be happy about this?”
The competitive fire has been ingrained in her makeup since Vandweghe was a youth, growing up around famous athletes both inside her family and out of it. Tennis was the passion she discovered at the right time, and it was her grandfather and former New York Knicks player Ernie Vandeweghe who gave her the insightful advice that spurred her on.
“I was 14 and he like, “It’s time to kind of pick a sport you want to take seriously,’” she recalled vividly.
He encouraged quiet reflection alone, letting an external voice an inner belief take over. CoCo Vandeweghe had excelled at basketball, but she was drawn to the game with a racquet.
“I just felt like tennis was it. And I was not a good junior tennis player. I didn’t really do well in tennis until I was 14-15.”
She credits her slower development path with her professional success, a plan enacted by her coach Guy Fritz, father of the highest-ranked American tennis player, Taylor Fritz. There’s no one singular path to success, and Vandeweghe’s story is a good reminder that everyone moves at different speeds in their athletic journey.
All tennis players and coaches have highs and lows, but it’s rare that a podcast host and their guest got to experience the same moment with completely different reactions. Murray coached the Chicago Smash of the World Team Tennis league in 2020, where his team’s championship match against the New York Empire came down to a winner take all point. Sloane Stephens was serving for the Smash, and none other than Vandweghe was returning for the Empire. The return was scorched and landed on a fraction of the line for an Empire championship, on call that Murray still disputes to this day.
“The best thing that happened was that I saw Bethanie (Mattek-Sands) leave the net and go cross, and I was like, thank you! I slapped the crap out of that forehand, made it like back edge of the line,” Vandeweghe recollected.
To the victors went the spoils, which included a cool $100K check. The player that hit that winning shot decided to get a new car, and has no plans to stop reminding the opposing coach how she paid for it.
“I should put World Team Tennis on the side or the license plate or something. Because that’s what got me that car.”
CoCo Vandeweghe always brings the flair, the excitement, and the passion to a game that is noticeable different when she’s not around. She goes into to detail about some of her highlights, lowlights, and why she always enjoys working with coaches who have strong and vibrant personalities. This podcast doesn’t pull back the curtain on a player we all know. CoCo Vandeweghe just rips it right down and starts speaking as only she can.