‘A star has been born’: Teen sensation survives match points to continue dream run at Wimbledon

Australia World

Updated July 06, 2019 09:43:28

It was easy to forget that Coco Gauff is still just 15 as she stood on the grass of Centre Court, pounding her chest and shouting, “Let’s go! Come on!” to celebrate a 32-stroke point that forced a third set in her match Saturday morning (AEST) at Wimbledon.

Up in the stands, her mum rose to pump a fist and yell, “Yes!” Thousands of spectators jumped out of their seats, too, roaring.

By then, Gauff already twice had been a point from losing in the third round to Polona Hercog of Slovenia.

Most players, no matter the age, would not be able to find their way out of that sort of a deficit on this imposing a stage, would not be able to handle that sort of stress and figure out a way.

Gauff is, quite clearly, not most players. That much has been established.

The tennis world is watching, waiting to find out how far she can go both this fornight and in the future.

Winner of 18 singles grand slam titles Martina Navratilova was gushing in her praise of the youngster on BBC.

“A star has been born,” Navratilova said.

“I don’t think I’ve seen anyone arrive in a greater flash at their first major.”

That Gauff, ranked 313th and facing another unseeded player, was scheduled to appear at Wimbledon’s main stadium says plenty about what a sensation the Floridian already is.

That she won this one, and how she did — erasing a pair of match points and coming back to beat the 28-year-old Hercog 3-6, 7-6 (9/7), 7-5 — offer some insight into what Gauff might become.

“Right now, I’m just super-relieved that it’s over,” said Gauff, who will face former number one Simona Halep in the fourth round.

“I always knew that I could come back, no matter what the score is.”

As it is, Gauff was the youngest player to qualify for Wimbledon in the professional era, winning three matches last week against higher-ranked women in the preliminary rounds.

Then, by upsetting five-time champion Venus Williams, who is 39, in the first round of the main event, Gauff became the youngest woman to win a match at the All England Club since 1991, when Jennifer Capriati reached the semifinals at 15.

Next came a win against 2017 Wimbledon semi-finalist Magdalena Rybarikova, who is 30.

Against Hercog, who is ranked 60th and is now 0-4 in third-round matches at majors, Gauff dropped a set for the first time this tournament, then trailed 5-2 in the second.

With Gauff serving at 30-40, Hercog was a point from victory. But the teen conjured up a backhand slice winner that dropped right on the chalk.

“I’m happy that the slice down the line went in,” Gauff would say later.

After her aggressive style paid off there, it was Hercog who really went into a shell, playing so cautiously and making mistake after mistake. A big one came when Hercog served for the match at 5-3 and held her second match point: She double-faulted.

They would play for another one-and-a-half hours. Hercog would never again get that close to winning. Gauff didn’t let her.

Shocks keep coming

Other women’s contests on Monday will be number three seed Karolina Pliskova against Karolina Muchova, number eight Elina Svitolina against number 24 Petra Martic, and Dayana Yastremska against Zhang Shuai, who defeated former number one Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-2.

The top half of the men’s draw, meanwhile, saw more in its series of upsets, leaving defending champion Novak Djokovic with what seems like little resistance in his road to the final.

The number one seed got a brief test on Friday before quickly righting himself and getting past Hubert Hurkacz 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-4.

No-one else on that side of the bracket is ranked higher than 17th; that’s the spot held by Milos Raonic, who is also the only other player who ever has been to a grand slam final.

Those exiting on Friday included last year’s runner-up, number four seed Kevin Anderson, who was knocked off by number 26 seed Guido Pella 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (4).

Pella beat 2017 runner-up Marin Cilic last year at Wimbledon and now will face 2016 runner-up Raonic, who beat Reilly Opelka of the United States, 7-6 (1), 6-2, 6-1.

Number 10 seed Karen Khachanov, number 11 Daniil Medvedev and number 19 Felix Auger-Aliassime all lost.

“It’s impossible to say who is going to figure things out more than the others to do what it takes to win Slams,” Anderson said.

AP/ABC

Topics: tennis, sport, england, united-kingdom

First posted July 06, 2019 05:42:17

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