Tennis player Coco Vandeweghe chats with us about playing in the U.S. Open, going pro as a teen, and following in her family’s footsteps

For most people, carrying on the family career path might involve working in marketing, running a restaurant, or perhaps going to med school. But for the 25-year-old professional tennis player Coco Vandeweghe, the family lineage involves a lot more sweat and tears. Born to the 1976 Olympic swimmer Tauna Vandeweghe and granddaughter of the New York Knicks player Ernie Vandeweghe, playing sports was an integral part of Coco’s childhood.

At the end of August, Coco held a launch party for the U.S. Open at Hakkasan in New York, where she mingled with reporters and fellow American players Shelby Rogers, Irina Falconi, Abigail Spears, and Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

HelloGiggles was lucky enough to chat with Coco about how she became a professional tennis player at the young age of 16, what it was like to grow up in an athletic family, and what she does to relax.

HelloGiggles: Were you always interested in tennis as a child? Did you always consider yourself an athlete?

Coco Vandeweghe: Not even a little bit. I was into pretty much every sport except tennis. I was the annoying little sister following my older brother; he’s a year and a half older than I am. I just had to be good at sports, because otherwise you can’t play with the guys. My family is very athletic, so either I was outside playing — or I was inside doing homework. School wasn’t really my field, so I was more likely outside playing sports.

HG: Did you ever feel pressure to be a swimmer like your mom?

CV: No, she actually did not want me to do swimming at all. She’s the one who wanted me to do tennis. So, she put my older brother into tennis to basically trick me into playing. Then I fell in love with it myself, so she had a master plan going on.

HG: Did you have a lightbulb moment when you knew you wanted to pursue tennis professionally?

CV: I think I’ve had a couple lightbulb moments. First of all, realizing “This is what I wanna do.” Second of all, realizing what kind of career tennis is with all the travel, and being okay with all of that. I went pro at 16, and I didn’t have any idea what being a professional tennis player meant. At 21, I finally realized “This is the career I’ve [chosen].”

HG: Do you have a ritual that helps you relax when you’re not playing tennis?

CV: Well, since I’m in Southern California, I like to go to the beach — that’s how I relax. I’ll go by myself and hang out, or go with friends. The beach I like to go to [has] beach volleyball, so I’ll sit and watch. People watching is fun enough for me.

HG: Do any of those inspirational talks from sports movies keep you going when you’re discouraged?

CV: I would say Coach Carter is a great one. I don’t have any specific lines that keep me going, but what’s most motivating for me is to see the pride and joy from my family, actually. That makes me happy. If I’m happy playing tennis, then everything else moves along great.

HG: How are you feeling about the U.S. Open ? Excited? Nervous?

CV: All of the above. I’m nervous. The Grand Slam is the last one of the year. Second of all — it’s my home slam, I have a lot of friends out here. I was born in New York; I lived here until I was 10. It’s a big event and New York city is electric.  Hopefully that energizes me to do well here.

You can follow Coco through the online coverage of the U.S. Open Championships.