After being passive and stiff for one set and a half and her opponent’s solid game, Cori “Coco” Gauff found herself on the brink of defeat, but the promising 15-year-old survived two match points by Polona Hercog in the second set and prevailed in the tense decider to reach the fourth round of Wimbledon on her main-draw debut.
Having reached the third round without dropping a set in five matches (three in qualifying rounds, then in the first round against Venus Williams and in the second round against Magdalena Rybarikova), the 313th-ranked Gauff barely showed a fraction of speed, preciseness and aggressiveness that brought her to the third round, until the very solid Hercog was serving for the match at 5-3 in the second set.
Playing on Center Court, Gauff seemed to be on a fast track to defeat as she hit considerably less winners and much more unforced errors than in her first two main-draw matches, but something changed when the loss seemed unavoidable. After saving one match point at 2-5, Gauff saved another one, actually helped by Hercog’s double fault, in the dramatic eighth game of the second set, in which the rising star earned her first break points in the match, converted the second one and consolidated the break by holding serve in the following game to level the set at 5 games apiece.
The tiebreak that followed shortly was just as tense, as on three occasions, at 5-5, 6-6 and 7-7, the next point was either a match point for Hercog or a set point for Gauff. Eventually, Gauff converted her third set point by winning a thirty-two-shot rally! It’s so amazing watching Gauff never giving up and staying quite calm in character-building moments.
In the decider, Gauff earned an early break and consolidated it at love for a 4-1 lead, but the 28-year-old Hydrogen-clad Hercog managed to recover to 4-4. After two more tense games, Gauff went 6-5 up with a love hold and in the following game converted her first match point, on Hercog’s serve.
When Coco won her first-round match at the 2019 Miami Open, she became the youngest player to win a WTA main-draw match in a decade and at the time she was already earning big bucks from sponsors. I can’t even imagine what will happen after Wimbledon! So far she’s taken by New Balance tennis apparel (in today’s match she was wearing the New Balance Summer Tournament Tank and Skirt), Head racquets, and Barilla spaghetti.
In the fourth round, Gauff will face seventh seed Simona Halep, who breezed past fellow Grand Slam champion and former No.1 Victoria Azarenka earlier in the day.