It’s more important for Black girls and women to fight like Coco Gauff rather than play like her

OPINION: Tennis star Coco Gauff had every right to go off on the chair umpire for a bad call at the Dubai Tennis Championships. But Gauff kept it classy, not trashy, the way I want my daughters and nieces to handle business when facing injustice.

Coco Gauff of the United States celebrates scoring a point against Elisabetta Cocciaretto of Italy in their second round women's singles match during the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, part of the Hologic WTA Tour at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on February 20, 2024 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Christopher Pike/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

When you’re a #GirlDad like me, you want daughters like Coco Gauff. Sure, she’s a world-class athlete and champion tennis player, but that’s not the part I’m talking about. 

We want our girls and young women to grow adept at social self-defense, prepared for the seemingly inevitable moments when they’re publicly disrespected in a majority-white space. Maybe it’s in a corporate office that has few colored faces. Maybe it’s on campus at a predominately white institution. 

Or maybe it’s in Dubai during a recorded match with a scene that went viral.

Ranked No. 3 in the world, Gauff lost her quarterfinal match Thursday at the Dubai Tennis Championships. But she made us exceedingly proud the previous day when she didn’t lose her composure, not only winning the match but giving a master class on speaking truth to power when power won’t listen.

Chair umpire Pierre Bacchi was “that guy” Wednesday, the one who doesn’t hear you because he keeps talking over you. The one who makes a mistake but can’t bring himself to admit it. The one who denies you common courtesy or professional privilege.  

Bacchi made a bad call and compounded his miscue with a bad ruling midway through Gauff’s victory against Karolina Plíšková. Gauff was all we’d hope for in dealing with the umpire — respectful but firm, considerate but adamant — before eventually taking the rightful step that’s available to all. 

She asked to speak with Bacchi’s manager, in this case, the tournament supervisor. 

He refused, which is wilder than a waiter denying that request from a patron.

“You can’t tell me the rule,” Gauff told Bacchi during a nearly five-minute disagreement. “If I’m questioning the rule, you have to call the supervisor. That’s my right and I know it is. Call her.”

He violated her right and kept speaking as she spoke, all the time with a gaslit “What’s the problem?” look on his face. Understandably, Gauff was incredulous. 

Her passion could’ve erupted into cusswords and racket abuse. She could’ve kept arguing while the crowd grew restless and Bacchi continued to interrupt her. “Can you not cut me off for two seconds?” she asked more than once. 

She was passionate, but not to the point of yelling and stomping. Such behavior is tolerated from some athletes and criticized when others display it (we know Gauff’s side of the line), but she refused to go there. 

I believe it’s called keeping your cool and not acting a fool, though hotheads need love, too. 

Instead of going off, Gauff decided to go on, proceeding despite the painful infringement that caused her eyes to water. “You’re going to apologize after this match because you know you messed up,” she told Bacchi before resuming the match. “I’ve never questioned anything like this before.”

Tennis legend Chris Evert, an 18-time Grand Slam champion was floored by Bacchi’s downright disrespect. “I can’t believe what I’m seeing,” Everett tweeted. “Coco had every right to see the supervisor, and her request was respectful and clear. What is wrong with him.”


Former world No.1 Andy Roddick was flabbergasted by Bacchi’s blatant bias. “This is an absurd exchange for this umpire,” Roddick tweeted. “1. He’s completely wrong 2. He’s lying about being wrong. 3. She must have simply said 10 plus times, I’d like the supervisor. That’s not a judgement [sic] call. He simply needed to honor that normal request and call the supervisor.”

Simply honoring a 19-year-old Black girl’s request must’ve been too much for Bacchi as he looked down from the umpire chair, which magnified the power dynamic. 

Gauff said the heated exchange “fueled” her to victory. “Maybe I dragged it out a little longer than I needed to, but I did what I felt was best in that moment.” She needn’t apologize. Not to the fans, not to the ump and not to the officials.

And certainly not to Black men like me and her father, left beaming over her comportment.

“So proud of my daughter,” Corey Gauff wrote on Instagram. “Standing up for yourself and fighting for fairness. You have the strength of your grandmothers who are 2 of the strongest women we know.

“While being passionate you remained respectful as you articulated your argument. The scene is so familiar to women and women of color pleading and fighting to be treated fairly and respectfully by their male counterparts.” 

He called her an incredible example to women and her generation on what it means to fight. “Despite not getting the outcome you wanted, you stood up for yourself and successfully moved on. You are becoming the young woman I prayed for. God Bless you,” he wrote.

No matter how much Bacchi warranted a tongue-lashing, Guff didn’t become the stereotypical angry Black woman. I would’ve forgiven her for tearing him a new one in the heat of competition. But Gauff kept it classy, not trashy, the way I want my daughters and nieces to handle business when facing injustice.

The WTA Tour and International Tennis Federation should release a statement that Gauff was wronged and Bacchi should apologize. But we never hold our breath waiting for such contrition. Our time’s better spent prepping Black girls to fight like Coco.

Whether or not they play like her is beside the point.

Deron Snyder, from Brooklyn, is an award-winning columnist who lives near D.C. and pledged Alpha at HU-You Know! He’s reaching high, lying low, moving on, pushing off, keeping up, and throwing down. Got it? Get more at

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