Cori “Coco” Gauff’s magical run at Wimbledon continues into the Round of 16. The 15-year-old American took down Slovenia’s Polona Hercog, 6-3, 7-6 (9-7), 7-5, Friday in the third round, and she’s the youngest player to advance to the fourth round since 1991 when 14-year-old Jennifer Capriati made it to the semifinals.
Gauff entered the tournament ranked No. 313 in the world, and through the first three rounds, she repeatedly demonstrated her elite skill, poise and enormous potential for the future of American tennis.
In her first match on Centre Court, Gauff dropped the first set, 6-3 — her first lost set of the tournament, which is her Grand Slam debut — and it looked like her day was done when Hercog took a 5-2 lead in the second set.
But not only did the teenager fight back and stay in the match, she tied it up, forced a tiebreak and then won that tiebreak, 9-7, in absolutely thrilling fashion. Each time either player looked poised to pull away, the other took control — which was particularly impressive for Gauff in her first appearance at the All England Club.
Gauff’s winning tiebreak point came of their longest rally at 32 captivating shots (and they tied that with another 32-shot rally in the third set). While she was, of course, fired up to earn her point, the crowd clearly had her back as well.
In the third set, Gauff stormed out to a commanding 4-1 lead. But her inexperience showed at times and she let it slip away, as Hercog tied it at 5-5 before ultimately taking the third set. She’ll face world No. 7 Simona Halep on Monday.
Gauff captured the attention of tennis fans immediately at the start of the tournament. She played well above her experience level, particularly in her third-round battle against Hercog, who flailed at times.
Monday in the opening round of the tournament, Gauff stunned the field and took down her idol, 39-year-old Venus Williams, in 6-4, 6-4 straight sets. She became the youngest player to win a match at the tournament since Capriati’s run in 1991 — which was about 13 years before Gauff was born, if you’re keeping track.
Gauff is Wimbledon’s youngest player this year, while Venus was the oldest. And afterward, she said she told Venus:
“‘Thank you for everything that you did. I wouldn’t be here without you.’ I always wanted to tell her that.”
Next in her path was 30-year-old Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova, the 2017 Wimbledon semifinalist who Gauff beat in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3, to advance to Friday’s third round.
And now, she’s onto the fourth round among the final 16 players standing.
Gauff hardly played like someone new to the Grand Slam scene — and at Wimbledon no less. She demonstrated power, precision and the ability focus like a true pro. She’ll likely learn from her mistakes as she matures as a player, and tennis fans should be anxious to see what the future holds for this rising star.