The lawn tennis courts of Wimbledon are often the source of stunning upsets and wild stories, but 39-year-old Venus Williams losing to a girl young enough to be her daughter in the first round is a stunning upset even by the high standards of its venue.
Fifteen-year-old Cori “Coco” Gauff, who referred to Williams and her sister, Serena, as her “idols” and “the reason I play tennis,” on Monday became the youngest woman to win a first-round singles match at Wimbledon since 1991 when youth and athleticism beat 24 extra years of age and guile 6-4, 6-4.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 1, 2019
Before the tournament began, Gauff told BBC Sport, “Many people have been like, ‘Do you like your draw?’ I love my draw. Playing one of the greatest players of all time is a dream. I’m excited to see how I do.”
Gauff had similar things to say about her situation to NBC as she was playing with house money from the start as a heavy underdog and still-growing teenager against a tennis legend.
“I have nothing to lose, playing against one of the greatest players of all time,” Gauff said. “I’m just super honored that I get to share the court with her. Not many people get to play Wimbledon at 15 so I’m just happy that I’m one of them.”
Williams was gracious in defeat as all the moment needed was a literal torch to make the symbolism any clearer.
She looks like Young Venus.
— Gousia (@gentleturbulenc) July 1, 2019
One fan pointed out that Gauff played a clean game, especially involving Gauff’s eight unforced errors to Williams’ 25. In tennis, sometimes the best way to win is to, paraphrasing Napoleon Bonaparte, “never interrupt your enemy while she is making a mistake.”
With 25 UEs and 50% Net Points Won >>> ??? pic.twitter.com/im8SngNGPn
— WhiteChoc ? (@atthasit) July 1, 2019
Gauff capitalized on her opportunities. She had three break points and won all three of them, and in a 6-4, 6-4 result, that’s the difference between a straight-sets victory and potentially running out of gas had the match gone to a third set.
The 15-year-old might have been nerves of steel on the court, but after the match, she collapsed into “tears of disbelief and happiness,” as Yahoo Sports put it.
All the emotions for Coco Gauff ? pic.twitter.com/6x0MfMm5N2
— espnW (@espnW) July 1, 2019
Oh, and the “youngest since 1991” distinction? That player in 1991 was 15-year-old Jennifer Capriati, who came in ranked ninth in the world and made it all the way to the quarterfinals.
Hopefully, Gauff can manage her young fame better than Capriati — whose battles with drugs and other issues made for tabloid headlines in the 1990s — was able to.
And in the meantime, Venus Williams can sit in the stands and watch the next iteration of herself battle it out on the courts in London.
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