LONDON — It could have been a devastating day for Coco Gauff.
He had come to Wimbledon brimming with confidence and coming off his first major final at the French Open last month. Considered one of the favorites in this tournament, many believed that this could be the Grand Slam in which Gauff made the seemingly inevitable breakthrough of hers and won the title.
And on Saturday, with the center court crowd firmly behind her and following a commanding second-round win, one she later called some of the best tennis she’s ever played on grass, the 18-year-old looked very poised. to advance. her to the fourth round at Wimbledon for the third time in her third appearance.
Gauff got off to a blistering start against compatriot Amanda Anisimova, rushing to take a 3-0 lead. But nothing was easy after that. Anisimova won the next four games and Gauff needed a tie break to take the first set.
She won only three games plus the rest of the match. Ultimately, the 20-year-old Anisimova prevailed 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-1 to advance to her first round of 16 at the All England Club, with Gauff earning the earliest exit of her career in the All England Club. tournament. Gauff quickly ran off the court after the match, but several hours, and a mixed doubles win, later, he could already see the bigger picture.
“I mean, I’m disappointed, but at the same time I think I did what I could at that point in the game,” Gauff said Saturday night. “She played well. I mean, I played well at times and I didn’t play well at times. She was the better player today.”
“So I think there’s a lot of things that I think I have to get better at. I feel like I can get better at. I feel like I’m over this.” [European] trip, literally every day I’ve gotten better, and that’s all I can ask for.
Now Gauff turns his attention to his mixed doubles run with Jack Sock (they reached the quarterfinals with another victory on Sunday) and then he will focus on the next hard court portion of the summer. While she was still unsure of her schedule for the events leading up to the US Open, one thing is for sure: she will still be a contender at the final Major of the year and will have all the expectations and attention that she deserves. have. she followed her since she first appeared on the scene.
Even before her auspicious Major debut at the All England Club in 2019, in which she defeated idol Venus Williams in her first match on Center Court and eventually reached the fourth round, Gauff had high hopes. Many of her have seen her as the next big superstar in the sport since she was playing at the junior level.
Before she could legally drive, she was signed by Roger Federer’s agent Tony Godsick and had been the focus of a clothing bidding war. Her run at Wimbledon three years ago was, in many ways, just the inevitable next step. And that success only created more buzz.
But there were restrictions on how much he could play on tour due to his age, and the coronavirus pandemic cut short much of the 2020 season. But while the casual fan might have been disappointed by his lack of big results on the Grand Slam stage , Gauff continued to improve his game and achieved consistent results on tour. He won two singles titles, in Linz and Parma, and four doubles titles, including the first of any kind at the 1000 level in Doha, Qatar (with Jessica Pegula) in February. She reached the quarterfinals at the French Open in 2021 and played in the doubles final (with Catherine McNally) at the US Open in September.
And then he had the best result of his career at the French Open. Gauff did not drop a set en route to the final and never needed more than 90 minutes on the court. As the former Grand Slam champions and the top seeds continued to drop in her half of the draw, she confessed to Pegula, her doubles partner, that she knew people now expected her to win her matches, but she didn’t let that stop her. will baffle
Everything, it seemed, was coming together exactly as it should.
But Iga Swiatek was simply too good in the final, and there was never any doubt during her 6-1, 6-3 loss to Gauff. The American couldn’t hide her tears at the end, but she still knew there was a lot to be happy about.
“I know I’ve been saying a lot, ‘Oh, it’s just a tennis match, you know, never mind. [but] really, that’s what I think,” Gauff said after the French Open final. “No matter. I mean, with the emotions right now I’m feeling it a lot, but tomorrow I’ll wake up and I’ll be really proud of myself.”
Now that the season had turned to grass, a surface on which Gauff had previously had success and on which Swiatek had limited experience, Gauff was a betting favorite to win the Wimbledon title. He reached the semi-finals in his only starting tournament in Berlin. Even Rafael Nadal praised his fighting spirit and predicted that he would one day be a “multiple Grand Slam winner” earlier this week.
But it wasn’t going to be. Not this time.
There have been plenty of teenagers on tour to win Grand Slam titles over the years, including Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, and more recently the likes of Bianca Andreescu and Emma Raducanu. There’s been a lot of talk about Gauff joining the esteemed roster, and she still has plenty of time to do it, but that doesn’t seem to be something she’s obsessing over.
“That’s more of a media thing than coming from her,” said ESPN analyst Alexandra Stevenson, who reached the Wimbledon semifinals as an 18-year-old qualifier in 1999. “She has a great perspective on what’s expected of her. She’s just taking it one day at a time, and no matter what anyone else thinks, everyone has an opinion, but all she needs to do is listen to her parents, her coaches, and herself.
“No one else’s [opinions] affair. And that’s what she does. She believes in herself, she knows she can do it and that’s okay. Even when she loses, she knows what she needs to work on and she’ll get right back to work.”
Perhaps ironically, or perhaps because of the extra attention, Gauff has had the worst results of his brief career at the US Open. He reached the third round in his debut in 2019, and then lost in his first match in 2020 and in the second round in 2021. But he said he wouldn’t even think about the tournament or the hard-court season until his time at Wimbledon. he is finished.
On Saturday night, just hours after the loss, Gauff was back on the court. This time it was the smaller No. 3 court, and Sock joined her, but she was just as excited to be there as she was on center court. The duo, who joined via Twitter, won their first-round match 6-4, 6-1, and their partnership gave them a new target for the time being.
“Right after the game [against Anisimova] I was so disappointed. So I was like, ‘I’m still in mixed; I’m going to have fun out there. I had a lot of fun. I was laughing, smiling at every point. With the intensity of singles and even doubles, it’s not very often [to be able to do that].
“Yeah, it was crazy for me to play with him. It was definitely a bucket list for me, and I’m glad I was able to do it. Hopefully we can keep winning.”