Wimbledon | Halep takes out CoCo
Manic Monday was a day of broken dreams, first with the bowing out of World No 1 Ash Barty and then the ending of Cori ‘CoCo’ Gauff’s Wimbledon fairytale.
I'm happy that I could play my best tennis I'm not comparing myself with last year. Last year was the best yet Simona Halep
Barty’s incredible run of 15 straight matches that earned her the Roland Garros title and took her to the top spot came to an abrupt halt at the hands of the unseeded American Alison Riske, while CoCo was stopped in her tracks by a former World No 1 and another Paris winner, Simona Halep.
Gauff knocked out 5-time champion Venus Williams in the first round, then Magdalena Rybarikova and Polona Hercog, saving 2 match points in the 3rd round to reach the second week of a Grand Slam tournament in her debut.
Playing on No 1 Court, the second biggest stadium at the All England Club, Gauff had plenty of support from the crowd, but Halep, the 2018 French Open champion and a Wimbledon semi-finalist in 2014, had the better shots.
Seeded 7th, Halep broke serve 6 times across 74 minutes, as her quality shone through against the 15-year old American debutant, who did well to hang in the early stages of the match.
It all proved a step too far for Coco, but what a memorable ride it has been.
After losing serve in the first game, Gauff broke back immediately and then held serve to lead 2-1, and she held 2 more break points against the Romanian for a 3rd consecutive game the next time Halep served.
The former World No 1 held on, however, and broke the teenager in the next game to ultimately take a lead that she hardly relinquished in the match.
After losing serve to trail 2-0 in the second, Gauff again broke Halep and held to level at 2-2, only to surrender serve for the final time in a key 6th game.
Halep played a clean match, as she hit 17 winners to 14 unforced errors, and won 70 percent of the points when she came to net, while Gauff’s 15 winners were unable to overcome her 28 unforced count.
The American did not go down without a fight, however, as she saved the 2 match points on serve in the 8th game of the second set, but she was unable to pull off another consecutive comeback to keep her fortnight alive.
Halep, who is into the quarter-finals for the third time, plays Zhang Shuai for a place in the last four on Tuesday.
Gauff’s cause was not helped by appearing to have suffered an abdomen strain during the second set which entailed the trainer and doctor to attend to her whilst her glum looking parents, father Corey who coached her initially and mum Candi, looked on from the players box.
Whilst on Friday she had fought back against Hercog from a set down and saved 2 match points, Halep is used to this level and never gave her opponent a glimmer of a hope as she closed out the match after breaking the American to lead 4-2.
“I’m really happy that I can play again in the quarter-finals,” said Halep, who was also in the last eight in 2016 and 2017.
“I enjoyed a lot the crowd, the energy today, I felt it really well.
“I’m happy that I could play my best tennis I’m not comparing myself with last year. Last year was the best yet,” added the 27-year-old.
Gauff, who was playing her 7th match in a fortnight having come through qualifying, takes her leave having also improved her ranking markedly from 313 and announced herself as a future Grand Slam contender.
Prior to Wimbledon, the 15-year-old had already amassed £59,000 on the WTA tour in 2019, from tournaments such as Indian Wells, Miami and Charleston, the latter of which she reached the quarter-finals, an amount she now triples with her Wimbledon prize money of £176,875 between singles and mixed doubles, an extraordinary amount for the tennis starlet.
Off the court, she has a set of profitable endorsements from the likes of New Balance, Head and Barilla, according to Forbes’ Kurt Badenhausen, which will earn Gauff around $1million in retainers from these deals alone in 2019.
The drawback to all of this success is taxes, overall the future stars tournament winnings will be taxed In the UK at an effective rate of 36.52 per cent.
In her wake continues the debate over the age eligibility rules that curtail the number of appearances young players can make on the adult pro tour.
Everyone, it seems, has an opinion, ranging from Roger Federer, who says: ‘I understand the rule completely, that they want the young players not to play too much. I’ve told the WTA they should loosen up the rules.
“I loved seeing [Martina] Hingis doing what she did at a young age. This is not me being involved in any shape or form as Team8 through Coco. I try to give her as much advice as I can through Team8.
“I think it would be nice, you know, if they could play more.
“I feel like it puts in some ways extra pressure on them every tournament they play. It’s like their week, this is now where I finally am allowed to play, I have to do well, right? I’m not sure if it’s maybe to some extent counterproductive.
“They could maybe do a mentoring system that there is maybe still a rule about how many tournaments they’re allowed to play, but maybe it should be more, in my opinion.
“Then the mentors should come in, the legends like Billie Jean or Chris Evert, Navratilova, others, maybe speak to the parents, the coaches, the player for that matter, and really, like, educate them so they don’t fizzle out.”
Rafael Nadal thinks the opposite, however, says: “Fourteen [pro events] at 15 [years of age] is not that bad. Normally I’m not playing that much!
“Probably they do it to protect a little bit the physical issue. When you are that young, when you have her level of tennis, of course you follow the normal tour and you believe that you can manage very well, no?
“But it’s true that your body is still under development. Sometimes it can be a little bit dangerous for the injuries in the future.
“I don’t have a real opinion on this. But I understand the rule. Maybe it’s not bad.”
On CoCo’s run at Wimbledon, the Spaniard added: “Her story is great, it’s very good for our sport to have stories like this.
“It creates audience, creates positive feelings. Just well done for her. She really played some great matches. I saw her play. I enjoyed.”
As for CoCo herself, she told the media: “I definitely understand why the rules are there. It’s definitely to protect the player. But obviously I will want to play more. We’ll see.
“I heard the rule is under review, so we’ll see what happens there.
“I learned a lot. I learned how to play in front of a big crowd. I learned what it was like to be under pressure. I learned a lot and I’m really thankful for this experience.”
Meanwhile, It was business as usual for Serena Williams as she went back to the day job and surged into the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
Andy Murray’s doubles partner is a pretty handy singles player too, as demonstrated by a dominant victory over Carla Suarez Navarro, the 30th seed.
Williams, who delighted Centre Court alongside Murray on Saturday evening, moved unerringly closer to an 8th Wimbledon title with a 6-2 6-2 win.
The 37-year-old, sporting a child’s plaster on her left elbow, never looked like coming unstuck against the Spaniard.
Two breaks of serve gave her the first set in just 31 minutes, the highlight a stunning flicked backhand across the helpless Suarez Navarro.
Two more breaks at the start of the second put Williams in total control, although Suarez Navarro did at least lay a glove on her with a surprise break to love.
It was only a temporary blip, as Williams broke back before serving out the match to set up a meeting with fellow American Alison Riske, who knocked out World No 1and top seed Ashleigh Barty, in the last eight.
Even though she is short on matches this year, Williams is still big on grass.
The 7-time Wimbledon champion, who missed about a year of play while she had a baby in 2017 but returned to the tennis tour in 2018, entered the tournament without having played since the third round of the French Open.
“I definitely haven’t had enough [matches],” said Williams, who had been dealing with an injured left knee. “I have more matches this week than literally the past five months. So, yikes.”
Williams reached the quarter-finals at the Australian Open, then retired from a match at Indian Wells, withdrew from matches in Miami and Rome, and then played at the French Open.
“I know that I can play, and now that I’m feeling better physically I almost feel a relief more than anything,” Williams said. “Like, OK, finally I can play tennis.”
Against Suarez Navarro, Williams won 6 straight games from 3-2 in the first set and broke for a 5-2 lead in the second. She easily closed it out from there.
Williams, who lost to Angelique Kerber in last year’s Wimbledon final, will next Riske, mindful that she lost to another fellow American opposition, Sofia Kenin, in the 3rd round at Roland Garros.
“Well the last time I faced a fellow American I lost, so I definitely want to do well this time,” Williams said.
“And yeah, she’s great on the grass. She took out the No 1 player in the world, who just won a grass-court tournament. I watched that match, so I’ll be ready for her.”
Also, No 8 Elina Svitolina beat No 24 Petra Martic ,6-4 6-2, Zhang Shuai defeated Dayana Yastremska, 6-4 1-6 6-2, Karolina Muchova beat No 3 Karolina Pliskova, 4-6 7-5 13-11, and Barbora Strycova came from a set and break down to beat Elise Mertens, 4-6 7-5 6-2.
Svitolina won six straight games from 4-4 in the first set.
Martic called for medical treatment on her left leg after the first game of the second set and her movement appeared to be hampered the rest of the way, asking for further treatment at 4-1.