Roger Federer stopped for a quick chat with Cori Gauff before 15-year-old’s second-round match at Wimbledon, and gave the youngster a few words of encouragement.
I think I played well, I played well on pressure points, she was serving amazing. I'm still shocked I am even here. I've not been able to relax, there is so much going on. Cori Gauff
The teenager, who is represented by Federer’s management group, made headlines when she defeated Venus Williams, 24 years her senior, on the opening day, setting up a clash with Magdalena Rybarikova.
Amazingly, CoCo Gauff followed that massive win with an equally impressive victory over Rybarikova, the World No 139, who is a grass-court specialist and a former Wimbledon semi-finalist, 6-3 6-3, in an hour and 9 minutes.
It was another new experience for the American teenager, another memory to be packed away in the box labelled ‘special’ for the 15-year-old schoolgirl, who has captured hearts and imaginations at Wimbledon 2019.
The wild card qualifier and the youngest player to win a match at Wimbledon since 1991, made her acquaintance with No 1 Court after a day of waiting and a late switch.
There, underneath the closed roof, the American prodigy extended her fairytale, with a victory that puts her into the top 200 from her current ranking of No 313.
Slovakia’s Rybarikova, who made the semi-final in 2017, was on a hiding to nothing as news spread the match had been switched from No 2 Court.
Within half an hour she was a set down as Gauff, utterly emotionless, took it 6-3.
A break in the third game of the second set paved the way to a third round contest with Polona Hercog.
The only moment of concern was a slip, which saw her do the splits, luckily no damage done. Gauff marches on.
“I think I played well, I played well on pressure points, she was serving amazing,” Gauff told BBC TV. “I’m still shocked I am even here.
“I’ve not been able to relax, there is so much going on.”
Asked about playing her next opponent, she added: “I believe I can beat anyone across the court.”
Her next opponent is unseeded Slovenian Polona Hercog, who matched her career-best Wimbledon result with an upset of former quarter-finalist and No 17 seed Madison Keys in Wednesday’s second round, 6-2 6-4.
Using a slice backhand and her athleticism to great effect, Hercog lured Keys into 31 unforced errors over little more than 70 minutes to reach the third round for the second time in the past three years.
After the pair traded breaks to begin the match, Hercog ran off 7 consecutive games from a 2-1 deficit in the opener to lead by a set and a break.
The Slovenian never lost serve in the second set despite needing to save break points in a pair of service games.
With the win, the World No 60 flipped the script of a straight sets defeat by Keys in May at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where she fell in a tight two-setter on her preferred surface of clay.
Hercog has now reached the third round at back-to-back majors, and faces the 15-year-old phenom Gauff for a place in the second week.
As for CoCo, she gets to relish all the experiences of her first Wimbledon, including that surprise when Federer walked past, and the pair had a brief exchange…
Gauff previously revealed that Federer had given her a ‘pep talk’ after she lost at the Australian Open Juniors last year, although the Swiss insists he has had very little role in her success.
“She’s very cool, very cute. I think she played great yesterday [against Venus]. I watched the entire match,” he said. “I was having treatment. Perfect, so I could watch it all. I think it was an amazing situation, to play somebody 23 or 24 years older. That stuff doesn’t happen every day.
“I thought it was super special for CoCo. I thought she handled it great. She wanted to be on the big court. She wanted to play against her idol. That’s what good players, that’s where they shine, I’d say.
“But I don’t feel like I’ve had a major impact on her career in terms of speaking to her in Australia. You know me.
“I don’t mind picking up some people along the way, telling them, ‘Don’t panic, don’t worry’, all these things. But maybe it leaves a profound impact on these players. I’m happy it does.
“I really can’t take any credit for anything. I also didn’t want to go see her before the Venus match, because this job was done by her parents and everybody else. I’m too far away from it all. I was, of course, very happy for her that she had the dream day she did have.”
As it happened, Gauff struck double-digit winners and two aces to book her spot into the third round.
She didn’t face a single break point in the opening set, employing her creative attacking game from the start against Rybarikova, who knocked out the big-hitting No 10 seed Aryna Sabalenka in her opener.
The young American had all the answers to Rybarikova’s tricky style, handling the Slovak’s rushes to the net and occasional serve-and-volleying like a veteran.
One break chance was all that was on offer in the first set, and Gauff took it with confidence, breaking Rybarikova to love at 4-2 and wrapping up the opening set.
The same pattern unfolded in the second set as well, as Gauff kept up her momentum to break early and grab a 2-1 lead
She had another pair of break chances at 3-2, but she didn’t need them as she broke Rybarikova to seal the victory in straight sets in what was another remarkably mature performance.