Just a day before Gauff goes head-to-head with defending U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka, McEnroe appeared on ESPN to discuss the cons of a Gauff victory. The seven-time Grand Slam winner claimed that if Gauff were to pull off another major upset Saturday at Arthur Ashe Stadium, it would be bad for everyone involved.
"I hope Coco Gauff loses tomorrow, personally," McEnroe said. "I actually think it would be bad for the sport of tennis if the defending champion who's struggling—I know she’s got a knee issue—but that would be devastating to her, and she’s the one we were talking about last year like Coco Gauff. If Coco Gauff at 15 can beat the defending champion, break down the defending champion? In my opinion, too much too soon, less is more."
McEnroe said he believes Gauff's rapid success at such a young age could be detrimental to her career, as it would be difficult for her to keep up that momentum into adulthood.
"Hopefully her parents are taking it slow because, to me, in four or five years, she’s going to be world No. 1," he explained. "What are the odds of her being able to—if she were hypothetically to win a US Open—be able to maintain something like that with all the expectations that were put on her and everything that comes with that? I’d say like a million to one."
McEnroe continued: "I’m sorry. I remember when I got to the Wimbledon semis when I was 18, I was happy I lost to [Jimmy] Connors. It gave me a chance to reflect, look back, go to Stamford for a year, prepare myself for the pro tour—the best thing I ever did for my personal career. I’m just saying. She shouldn’t be as good as Osaka yet at 15."
Gauff has taken the sports world by storm this year, defeating a number of tennis veterans, including her idol Venus Williams, Anastasia Potapova, and, most recently, Timea Babos.
Gauff, who became the youngest player since Anna Kournikova in 1996 to reach the US Open's third round, will face off against Osaka at 7 p.m. Saturday. Though McEnroe clearly doesn't want the teenage phenom to walk away with a win, he admits she's got a real shot.
"Osaka is hurt and mentally she fired her coach after winning two Slams," he said. "To me, [Gauff's] got a real chance."