Saturday 17 August 2019

15-year-old Cori Gauff's Wimbledon dream still alive after stunning comeback win on Centre Court debut

Cori Gauff of the U.S. celebrates winning her third round match against Slovenia's Polona Hercog REUTERS/Toby Melville TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Cori Gauff of the U.S. celebrates winning her third round match against Slovenia's Polona Hercog REUTERS/Toby Melville TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Jonathan Veal

Cori Gauff is not ready for her remarkable Wimbledon journey to end just yet as she fought off two match points to beat Polona Hercog and move into the fourth round.

The 15-year-old has been the story of the Championships so far, having come through qualifiers to beat Venus Williams in the first round, but it looked like it was coming to an end with Hercog on the brink of a straight-sets victory.

But Gauff climbed off the canvas and showed she has a strong fighting spirit to add to her precocious talent, earning a 3-6 7-6 (7) 7-5 win over the Slovenian.

Whatever happens next, her performance will be remembered alongside the likes of Boris Becker's and Martina Hingis' in terms of outstanding teenage stars at the All England Club.

She moves into the second week on her maiden grand slam main draw appearance and will now meet Simona Halep in the fourth round on Monday.

It is a match that is destined for another big show court and on this evidence, she has every chance of claiming her biggest scalp yet against the former world number one.

This was her Centre Court debut, but the crowd soon took her to their hearts, even before her impressive comeback.

Nerves perhaps got the better of her to begin with as for the best part of two sets she barely laid a glove on the world number 60.

Gauff's serve was under constant threat from the start, saving early break points, before it was finally breached at 4-3 and Hercog took the first set thanks to another weak service game where the American sent down three double faults.

The hangover of that continued into the second set as Hercog sealed a third successive break, with Gauff's forehand regularly faltering.

She finally stopped a rot of seven successive games for her opponent with a hold to love, but was unable to make any headway in her return games as Hercog protected her lead with ease.

Hercog's first match point came and went on Gauff's serve at 3-5, with a second arriving a game later when she was serving for the match.

That is when Gauff came to life, replicating the energy that saw her dump out Williams and then Magdalena Rybarikova.

She broke Hercog's serve when she had no other option and then finally battered down the obdurate defence of her opponent's backhand slice to take a thrilling tie-break 9/7.

A third set was the last thing the 28-year-old needed as she had a medical timeout and it looked like the youth of Gauff would carry her through as she raced into a 4-1 lead.

Hercog, continuing to draw errors with her backhand slice, fought her way back to 4-4, but, as she applied ice to her legs at the change of ends, the longer it went on the more likely Gauff was to win and that is how it turned out.

She forced Hercog into several errors at 6-5 and won with her first match point as the Slovenian sent a forehand long, sparking some of the most memorable Centre Court scenes in recent times.

PA Media

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