July 08, 2019
She has been the story of this year’s Wimbledon. But Coco Gauff’s dreamy ascent into the second week ended at the last 16 stage with a 3-6, 3-6 defeat by Simona Halep, the number seven seed.
The Coco bubble pops at Wimbledon as Simona Halep ousts Gauff
Gauff was the youngest player to travel this far at Wimbledon since a 15-year-old Jennifer Capriati advanced to the semi-finals in 1991. She had beaten three veteran players, including Venus Williams, to do so. But Halep, who ended 2018 as the World No1 and a grand slam champion, proved a step too far.
Gauff, who only turned 15 in March, had her chances. Halep was jittery early on, especially on her serve but the American could not take advantage.
Throughout this tournament she has played with ice in her veins. But back on Court One where she catapulted onto the world’s stage by beating Venus Williams a week ago she looked much more nervous.
It was a scratchy start from both players. Gauff hit three forehand errors in the first game of the match to be broken immediately, yet broke back and held lead 2-1. At this stage Halep’s serve was all over the place. Yet while she made three double faults in her second service she managed to hold.
From then on Gauff seemed to lose confidence as she lost the first set 6-3 after 41 minutes.
The American was beginning to look tired, understandable given this was her seventh match in a fortnight, and she quickly went down a break in the second set. And while she broke back to be 1-2 down Halep soon broke again and was in control.
Gauff kept trying but she hit some shots that had the crowd gasping her match statistics of 15 winners to 28 unforced errors told its own story.
In her previous match the American had saved two match points against Polona Hercog before mounting an improbable comeback. And she saved another couple at 5-2 down to prolong match. But Halep refused to be flustered and held serve to win the match.
It was the end of an extraordinary journey that began when Gauff was given a wildcard into the Wimbledon qualifying tournament in June. Three victories later she was into the main draw proper, and when she beat Venus Williams last Monday she became the most famous 15-year-old on the planet.
Despite this loss she will move into the world’s top 150, no mean achievement for someone rated in the 800s at the start of 2018 as well as earning £176,875 in prize money. And given what we have seen over the past week, this is surely just the start of the journey.
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