It’s not often that the best moment of a Grand Slam take place within the first couple hours of the tournament. But it’ll be hard to top what rising star Cori “Coco” Gauff pulled off Monday afternoon at the All England Club defeating Venus Williams 6-4 6-4 to advance to the second round.
On paper, it seems like a massive upset with a 24 year age difference between the two, but a result like this was bound to happen for Gauff who’s been trending in the right direction for a long time now.
Just last December, at 14-years-old, Gauff became the youngest player in 15 years to win the prestigious Orange Bowl junior title. It was also surely the last time she will ever appear in a junior event. And her star potential was on display well before that, with Gauff reaching the finals of the US Open junior event at the age of 13.
Playing Venus Williams on Court 1 at Wimbledon was obviously a significant step up from playing junior events, but Gauff has been beating players who are older and more experienced throughout her entire career. Her playing in those tournaments with such high expectations at such a young age certainly prepared her for the big stage yesterday.
One of the hardest things in tennis is coming back 48 hours after the career-changing win and trying to back it up in the next round. Gauff will face veteran Magdalena Rybarikova who’s had some Wimbledon success herself. Rybarikova, who upset tenth seed Sabalenka in straight sets, reached the semifinals at Wimbledon two years ago and will surely feel confident about her chances of reaching the third round.
Regardless of what happens against Rybarikova, indeed the rest of her professional career, Gauff’s win over Williams will live long in the memory. But it will also only increase her profile, particularly as the tennis season moves to her native North America. Coping with this newfound fame will be a fresh challenge for the young star.
And whilst it currently looks to be a pretty safe bet, it’s not guaranteed that Gauff’s success will continue this quickly. We’ve seen players like Cici Bellis, for example, struggle to live up to the massive potential they showed early on in their career. Bellis defeated Dominika Cibulkova at the 2014 US Open at just 15 years old but hasn’t been able to rise through the rankings as expected due to a number of serious injuries.
But if Gauff is able to stay healthy throughout her career, it would almost be more surprising if she doesn’t win multiple Grand Slams before the end of her career. She possesses all the weapons required to succeed in the modern game and also looks to be a formidable athlete. Indeed, one rather suspects that her victory over Williams was just the beginning.
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