(Reuters) – American tennis player Coco Gauff can improve the world, 18-time Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova has said, lauding the teenage tennis prodigy for her role in the Black Lives Matter protests against racial injustice.
Gauff, 16, released a video on social media protesting killings of African-Americans in the United States amid widespread outrage across the country following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in police custody in Minneapolis.
“She is just so poised on and off the court, she was really brought up with great qualities and it shows how she plays and it shows how she’s active now politically,” Navratilova told BBC Radio.
“I smile so much when I see the reach she already has now, and she will have in the future. She’s one of those people that can change the world for the better, and she seems to want to do that.”
The death of Floyd sparked worldwide protests against racism and calls for reforms of U.S. law enforcement. Last month, Gauff appeared at a protest in her hometown of Delray Beach, Florida.
Naomi Osaka, the world’s highest paid sportswoman, and 23-times Grand Slam winner, Serena Williams, also made themselves heard regarding racial injustice.
Navratilova, who is openly gay, said it was vital for sports stars to speak out.
“Sports has always been at the forefront of social change and it can be that again, with Black Lives Matter and equality for all,” the 63-year-old said.
Navratilova also felt the tennis suspension due to COVID-19 will not help the 38-year-old Williams, who is chasing Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slams.
“She’s getting older. Time is not her friend at the moment,” Navratilova said. “She’s not going to play better than she did 10 years ago but if she plays as well as she did five years ago, then she’ll be okay.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Lincoln Feast.)