Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff, the youngest player in the singles draw, delivered an almighty knockout punch to floor five-time champion Venus Williams.
No one at Wimbledon could quite comprehend that this was Gauff’s first Grand Slam match, or that she was the youngest player to qualify for the main draw. Ranked 313th, Gauff was given a wild card into the Wimbledon qualifying tournament. In her first match, she beat the highest-ranked player in the event, No. 94 Aliona Bolsova. Gauff then won two matches in straight sets to become the youngest woman to qualify for Wimbledon in the Open era.
Gauff was totally unfazed in her first match in the main draw, serving brilliantly, showing great athleticism, hitting 18 winners, and making only eight unforced errors in a magnificent performance.
Williams, who is 39, was the oldest woman in the Wimbledon women’s singles draw. Gauff, the world number 313, was not even born when Williams won the first two of her five Wimbledon titles.
Gauff, who had previously won the junior French Open title at 14 and had to earn her ticket to Wimbledon by knocking out No. 1 seed Aliona Bolsova in qualifying rounds, held off Williams 6-4, 6-4 in straight sets.
When the 15-year-old high school student began the 2019 season, ranking 875 in the world, not many would have given her a second glance, let alone predicted that six months later she would set Wimbledon alight.
Gauff, who used to think “it’s weird for people to take pictures of me,” had better get used to the spotlight. The teenager, who is known as Coco, wasted little time in declaring her long-term goals.
“Honestly, I don’t know how to feel,” she said afterwards, remarkably composed. “It’s the first time I ever cried after winning a match. I don’t know how to explain what I felt.
“I definitely had to tell myself to stay calm. I never played on a court so big. I reminded myself that the lines on the court are the same, everything around it might be bigger, but the lines are the same.”
On playing against her hero, Gauff added, “She just told me congratulations and to keep going. I told her thanks for everything she did. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her.
“Even though I’d met her before I guess I didn’t have the guts to tell her before now.”
Gauff, who was born in Atlanta, started playing tennis when she was 7 years old. Gauff’s parents also played sports in their youth. Her father, Corey, is her primary coach and was a basketball player at Georgia State. Her mother, Candi, was a hurdler and heptathlete at Florida State.
1st Round against V. Williams: 6-4, 6-4 (Gauff)
2nd Round against M. Rybarikova: 6-3, 6-3 (Gauff)
3rd Round against P. Hercog: 6-3 (Hercog), 7-6, 7-5 (Gauff)
4th Round against S. Halep: 6-3, 6-3 (Halep)