Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Cori Gauff makes astonishing comeback to reach Wimbledon last 16


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American 15-year-old Coco Gauff saved two match points in another astonishing display to extend her dream Wimbledon run into the last 16.

A packed Centre Court, enchanted by the teen who knocked out five-time champion Venus Williams, saw her beat Slovenian Polona Hercog 3-6 7-6 (9-7) 7-5.

After double-faulting to hand Hercog the first set, Gauff was staring at defeat at 4-1 in the second.

But she pulled back to force a tie-break and snatched another famous win.

“I always knew I could come back whatever the score was,” Gauff told BBC television.

“The crowd was amazing. Even when I was down match point they were still cheering me on.”

From the moment she arrived in London, Gauff has been doing things her way – and in style.

First, she was the youngest player to qualify for Wimbledon in the Open era, then she became the youngest player to reach the last 32 since 1991.

After stunning one of her idols Williams 6-4 6-4 in the first round, and then proving it was no fluke with another straight-set win over former Wimbledon semi-finalist Magdalena Rybarikova, Gauff became the story of the championships.

Such was the interest in her that this third-round match – which on paper was a qualifier against an unseeded player – ended up on Centre Court, one of the sport’s biggest stages.

And it more than justified the decision.

Trailing by a double break in the second set, Gauff was heading for the exit door. Facing two match points, she had one foot out of it.

But if there was any doubt over the mental strength of this youngster, she answered it – saving one match point with a bold, line-kissing winner, before Hercog double-faulted on the other.

She must have sensed it was going to be her day when a lucky net cord in the tie-break edged her ahead – and she held her nerve in a who-will-blink-first rally on set point, then unleashed the forehand winner that drew her level.

Gauff beat her chest in celebration, her mum dared to look up, and the Centre Court crowd rose to their feet with a roar.

A nervy third set followed, with Gauff eventually carving out a match point after two hours 45 minutes, completing the remarkable turnaround when Hercog hit long.

She dropped her racquet and jumped up and down with her arms in the air, then put her hands behind her head in disbelief. Her mum danced with joy and the 14,000-strong crowd leapt to their feet in stunned admiration.

Her exploits this week led to 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer introducing himself to her and Rafael Nadal watching her train, while her mobile phone was – in her words – “banging”.

It will not stop now either. (BBC SPORT)


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