- Cori Gauff overcame an early setback to beat Polona Hercog two sets to one in an extraordinary third-round thriller at the Wimbledon Championships on Friday.
- Gauff is a 15-year-old American who has been taking the All England Club by storm, swatting aside Venus Williams and Magdalena Rybarikova earlier in the week.
- Hercog provided Gauff’s toughest test to date, but she showed incredible inner game to go from match point down in the second set to winning the entire thing.
- She once said she was living her dream making her Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon, but after surviving a tough first week, “Coco” continues to make history, advancing into next week’s round of 16.
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Cori “Coco” Gauff pulled herself back from the brink of defeat on Friday to topple Polona Hercog in a dramatic Wimbledon Championships third-round clash.
Gauff, a 15-year-old who sat a science examination the week before Wimbledon qualifiers last month, breezed through the first and second round of the main draw, taking Venus Williams to school on Monday before beating Magdalena Rybarikova with a textbook performance two days later.
Against Hercog she was up against it, taking a good hour to get going, but passed her toughest test to date after overcoming a one-set deficit to triumph two sets to one on Centre Court.
None of this is normal. Most teenagers are playing video games, thinking about learning to drive a car, or maybe even sitting at home watching tennis, not playing in Wimbledon and actually winning.
They’re also not defying expectations by walking through a former five-time winner in Williams earlier this week, making $US1 million seem like easy work before the end of the year, and having the inner game to turn a match around when you were seemingly down and out before finally putting your opponent to the sword.
Gauff is 15. Just keep reminding yourself of that fact. She is the exception – the rare phenomenon who shakes up the world. She’s a 15-year-old, who once said she wanted to be “the greatest,” shining Grand Slam potential on one of the finest sporting stages the world can offer, and doing so calmly, with poise and a confidence that belies her years.
Despite Gauff’s captivating story, Hercog’s contribution cannot be overlooked. Every exceptional talent needs rugged challengers to make intriguing bouts, and Hercog, in the opening hour, swept Gauff to the side like a professor reminding a pupil who was boss.
In the first set she showed a commanding service game, forced her younger opponent to make mistakes, and made her winning shots count.
Hercog’s 6-3 first set win was followed by a solid second-set performance all the way to 4-1, where she was yet to face a break point. But then things began to go downhill as Hercog’s dominance faded, while Gauff rallied.
Hercog had a moment in the second set to send her younger foe home early, putting the match to bed at 5-2. But Gauff wanted to stay up late. She saved match point, out-rallied the 28-year-old, and showed pitch-perfect slicing that kissed the chalk. Before long, Gauff brought the set back to 5-5 and forced a tiebreak, which she eventually won 9-7 after a ridiculously watchable 32-shot rally.
Gauff – remind yourself once again, a 15-year-old American – had the Wimbledon crowd cheering her every point, and with a winning shot to restore set parity at 1-1, she broke that calmness she had previously exhibited by beating her chest and miming “come on!”
Exuding clutch, mettle, and all the stuff that usually comes with experience, the teenager broke Hercog in the third to go 3-1, held at 4-1, and promised to complete a remarkable comeback – adding her name to a tournament already filled with memorable stories.
But, again, Hercog proved a resilient opponent. She refused to capitulate, broke Gauff’s serve at 4-3, and held for 4-4 before taking it to 5-5. Then, when it mattered most, after defeat for her was just a match point away only an hour before, Gauff sensed victory.
With exemplary footwork, powerful winners, and a clutch game normally associated with the Serena Williamses and Roger Federers of the world, Gauff served to love for 6-5 before sealing game, set, and match when Hercog sent a lob beyond the line.
Think about that achievement. With the win, Gauff, 15, survived a tough first week at Wimbledon to advance into the round of 16, in which she will play the former world No. 1 Simona Halep, next week.
Gauff said at the start of the competition that she was living her dream, but now, after three successive wins, she is doing more – she is making history.