Coco Gauff, 15, continues her upset streak at Wimbledon
Less than a week ago, when walking from a Wimbledon practice court to her match against Venus Williams, Coco Gauff fielded a single selfie request from a fan.
Three wins later and the 15-year-old Gauff is the brightest star at the most prestigious event in tennis.
“The most unexpected message I received? Well, it wasn’t really a message,” Gauff said. “Miss Tina Knowles, Beyonce’s mom, posted me on Instagram. I hope Beyonce saw that. I hope she told her daughter about me, because I would love to go to a concert.”
Gauff, of Delray Beach, Fla., received a taste of the rock-star treatment Friday, getting a standing ovation from the capacity crowd at Centre Court after her 3-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5 victory over Slovenia’s Polona Hercog.
It was Gauff’s first appearance on that storied stage, having pulled off stunning upsets of Venus Williams and Magdalena Rybarikova on Court 1 earlier in the week.
“When I was walking on the court, I kind of wasn’t nervous, but was I just like, ‘Wow, I’m really on Centre Court, one of the most sacred courts in the world,’ ” said Gauff, the youngest woman to win a match at Wimbledon since Jennifer Capriati — then a younger 15 — in 1991.
“I just feel relieved that it’s over,” said Gauff, who will play former No. 1 Simona Halep in the fourth round Monday. “My parents are just telling me to stay calm, stay focused, because the tournament is not over yet. That’s why I’ve been kind of celebrating the night after the matches, then the next day back to practice.”
Other women’s contests Monday will be No. 3 seed Karolina Pliskova against Karolina Muchova, No. 8 Elina Svitolina against No. 24 Petra Martic, and Dayana Yastremska against Zhang Shuai, who defeated former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-2. The top half of the men’s draw, meanwhile, saw more in its series of upsets, leaving defending champion Novak Djokovic with what seems like little resistance in his road to the final. The No. 1 seed got a brief test Friday before quickly righting himself and getting past Hubert Hurkacz 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-4. No one else on that side of the bracket is ranked higher than 17th.
Before rallying Friday, Gauff was down a set and trailing 2-5 in the second.
“I think I was playing really good tennis for the two sets,” Hercog said. “I had my chances.”
But Gauff scrambled back, won her first Wimbledon tiebreaker and clinched the victory when a Hercog shot sailed long. As Gauff’s parents danced at their courtside seats, their daughter bounded in elation like a pogo stick.
“When it was going over my head, I was like, ‘Please go out. Please,’ ” Gauff said. “Then after, when I was jumping, I was like, ‘Wow. I can’t believe it. It’s been one long match. It’s finally over.’ ”
For Gauff, it’s only beginning. Her victory Friday assured her of $220,000 in prize money. Asked how she might spend some of that windfall, Gauff gave an answer that underscored her youth: “I can’t buy a car because I can’t drive.”
Winner of California Sportswriter of the Year and first place for beat writing by Associated Press Sports Editors, Sam Farmer has covered the NFL for 25 seasons.