Coco carries on the Vandeweghe name
BY ARTHUR STAPLE
August 26, 2008
Coco Vandeweghe did not have the results Monday night at Arthur Ashe Stadium. She has the genes, though. And that means the 16-year-old, a wild-card entry into her first U.S. Open, hasn't seen the last of the big tennis facility in Queens.
She is the daughter of Tauna, an Olympic swimmer in the 1976 Games and a silver medalist with the volleyball team in the 1984 Games. Tauna's brother, Kiki, is the Nets' general manager and a veteran of 15 NBA seasons, including three with the Knicks. Their father, Coco's grandfather, Dr. Ernie Vandeweghe, went to Ocean.side High School and played six seasons with the Knicks in the early 1950s.
So the rather unpleasant task of facing world No. 2 Jelena Jankovic at Ashe Stadium at night, after a parade of former U.S. Open champions pushed her match start back almost 90 minutes ... well, it didn't faze her quite the way it would another 16-year-old.
"My mother's taught me all about that stuff, being in the Olympics twice," Coco said after her 6-3, 6-1 loss to Jankovic. "My Uncle Kiki, he's talked to me a little bit too. We played once in tennis. I'm 1-0 against him."
That was when Coco was 12 and just beginning her junior career. Her athletic pedigree has also meant that her mother is not a crazy tennis mom, pushing her daughter into too much, too young. Coco has played only a handful of Challenger tournaments this year and was in the junior draw at Wimbledon, where she lost in the first round.
When she arrived here, she didn't know who she'd play once she started preparing last week. The handful of wild cards the USTA doles out to American junior players doesn't assure any favorable draws, and Coco got the worst one possible.
"[Fellow wild card] Asia Muhammad came up to me and said, 'Did you see the draw?' I was like, 'No, not yet,'" Coco said. "She said, 'You play Jankovic.' I was like, 'Oh ... This is going to be great!'"
She found out the match would be the night debut for this year's Open on Saturday, when Lindsay Davenport turned down the chance to do so. Davenport has been helping out Vandeweghe; both are from Southern California, and veteran coach Robert Van't Hof, Davenport's coach in her heyday, is coaching Vandeweghe.
"The wind was really a factor," Coco said, "and she was really a factor, too. But I really just enjoyed every minute of it."
She'll stick around to play in the women's doubles tournament, as well as the junior singles event. Coco is 6-1, she has a powerful forehand and once she learns to control points and get rid of the jitters, she'll be back for a longer stay.
The Vandweghe name means a little something around these parts, going all the way back to the early 1940s, when Ernie was a three-sport star at Oceanside. It'd be something if there could be a third generation, and another sport, to add to the family legend.
"It was pretty amazing," Coco said, "to have the New York crowd out there, cheering for me."
Not this year for another Vandeweghe, but someday soon.
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