Coco Gauff, a young tennis star competing in the US Open, joins a long list of prominent athletes who use inspirational anime as a part of their pre and post-game ritual.
During a post-game interview at the US Open semi-finals following her victory over Czechia’s Karolína Muchová, 19-year-old Gauff let fans in on how she plans on celebrating her big win. Instead of responding with a canned answer about getting a fancy dinner at some Michelin-mile restaurant or saying she’s gonna review her tapes to look for ways she can improve before her next semi-finals match, Gauff instead responded saying she’s going to “watch some anime.”
“No literally today I watched like four or five episodes of My Hero Academia before I played,” Gauff said. “I don’t know, I mean I may watch some of the match, maybe not. I don’t know I haven’t even thought that far ahead to be honest.”
Although Gauff could’ve name dropped any number of sports-oriented anime like The Prince of Tennis, Blue Lock, or Haikyu!!, she instead said she plans on watching the popular underdog superhero anime, My Hero Academia, which makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
My Hero Academia follows Izuku Midoriya, a “quirkless” boy who inherits the superpowers of a world-famous superhero, All Might, and attends UA Academy, a school for fledgling heroes, to pursue his dream of becoming the world’s strongest hero. You can see why someone like Gauff, who’s defying the odds to become the youngest tennis player since Serena Williams to reach the U.S Open finals, would gravitate to a show about a hero going “plus ultra” by standing at the apex of his superhero world. She’s even got a similar kind of One For All, generational-passing of-the-torch-type relationship with tennis great Williams, making her taste in anime even more apt.
“I don’t think I’m carrying American tennis. I don’t think I will. We have so many compatriots who are doing well. Serena is Serena. She’s the GOAT. I’d hope to do half of what she did. But I’m not gonna compare myself to her. She’s someone I look up to. Being in the same stat line as her means a lot to me. She’s my idol,” Gauff told ESPN. “The only regret I’ll have for the rest of my life is not being able to play her…there were so many tournaments where if we won an extra round and didn’t lose, I would’ve played her. I’m still happy to just be a product of her legacy.”
Luckily for the interviewer and the confused yet supportive audience who responded with a mix of laughter and applause, Gauff didn’t have to staunchly defend her love of My Hero Academia like Detroit Lions running back Jamal Williams, who once had to check a non-weeb interviewer for mispronouncing Pokémon. Let this be a lesson to non-anime fans: we’re not only online. Some of us are the best athletes of all time.