Wimbledon | A star is born as Gauff takes out Venus
The match of the day was clearly the debut of Cori ‘CoCo’ Gauff, who has arrived on the world stage at the tender age of 15.
Two weeks ago, she was in Florida, sitting an exam in high school, when she got a call that she had been awarded a wild card into the qualifying at Roehampton.
I'm literally living my dream right now. Cori ‘CoCo’ Gauff
Little did she know that on Day 1 of The Championships proper she would be beating her hero, Venus Williams, on Wimbledon’s No 1 Court.
She came through three rounds of qualifying without dropping a set and entered the main draw as the youngest competitor, drawn to meet the oldest.
The 15-year-old overcame a 24-year age gap to stun Williams on her Wimbledon debut, playing like a veteran in an excellent 6-4 6-4 victory.
At the age of 39 and ranked No 44 in the world, Venus is no longer the centre of attention when it comes to Grand Slams but on this day she was involved in yet another chapter of remarkable tennis history.
Near enough 12,345 fans crammed into the No 1 court to watch the 5-time Wimbledon winner reach the second-round but in actuality, they witnessed something very special – the arrival of a 15-year-old who is destined for great things.
Ranked World number 313, Gauff could have been confused for Venus, tall and willowy and packing a punch.
Five days ago, she was sitting a science exam in which she received a grade B and now here she was, playing on the biggest court of her life with a maturity way beyond her years, and producing power that a 15-year-old just shouldn’t possess.
Gauff broke Williams’ serve at the third attempt of asking and, as she edged towards taking the first set, the crowd started getting excited, always keen to support an underdog.
Despite the occasion, Gauff always seemed to remain cool, breaking Williams in the fifth game of the first set, to enjoy a 3-2 lead, hitting drop shots and forcing errors from Venus’ racket.
Her impressive speed and movement gave her the chance to hit winners from all angles, going on to take the first set 6-4.
The kid’s expression never changed until it was all over, and nothing about the occasion seemed to faze her.
Fans shook their heads in disbelief at some of the groundstrokes Coco was producing as she took that first set, and then went up in the second, 3-2, gifted by a double fault from Venus.
A break of serve each followed before the teenager held her nerve to seal one of the most incredible wins in Wimbledon history.
This is no ordinary 15-year-old – last year, she won the junior French Open title aged just 14, her agent is part of Roger Federer’s management group and she is already predicted to earn more than $1 million this year in endorsements alone.
Growing up, she idolised both the Williams sisters and described her first-round draw against Venus as a dream come true.
“I play tennis because of them,” she said. “They’re great role models for the sport and in general. I’m super excited to play against Venus. I felt like I was going to play one of them. I love the draw. Playing one of the greatest players of all time is a dream.”
That was before she scored a win that reduced her to tears.
“I don’t know how to feel,” Gauff told the BBC broadcast after her win. “This is the first time I ever cried after a match, winning obviously. I don’t even know how to explain how I feel.
“I definitely told myself to stay calm, I never played on a court that big. Everything around it might be bigger, but the lines are the same.”
Asked what Venus had said to her over the net, she responded: “She told me, ‘Congratulations, keep going, and good luck.’ I thanked her for everything she did. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her. She’s so inspiring.”
When asked what her parents will be feeling, she said: “Super happy. My dad was jumping around with every point. The time they’ve spent around me and my brothers, making sure that we are successful.
“I’m literally living my dream right now.”
There are so many stats and numbers you can use to demonstrate just how remarkable this match-up really was: a 24 year age difference; 257 ranking places between them; $41.4m difference in career earnings and the fact that Venus had won 10 Grand Slams, with 2 at Wimbledon, before Gauff was even born.
Despite those differences, you don’t have to look very hard at all to see the similarities between Gauff and the Williams sisters.
Based in Florida, coached by her dad, trained with Patrick Mouratoglou, her incredible serve and her determination to become the best are all testimony to a remarkable pedigree.
“I want to be the best of all time — better than Serena,” CoCo said in the build-up to Wimbledon.
And she probably will.
Her second round opponent is Magdalena Rybarikova from Slovakia, who took out the 10th seeded Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus, 6-2 6-4.
If the kid doesn’t progres