LONDON, Great Britain - American qualifier Cori “Coco” Gauff continued her history-making Wimbledon run in a dramatic way, stunning five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in the opening round of her Grand Slam debut, 6-4, 6-4.
Last week Gauff, aged 15, made good on a qualifying wildcard and tore through the draw without dropping a set, knocking out top seed Aliona Bolsova and Greet Minnen along the way.
After becoming the youngest player ever to qualify for Wimbledon in the Open Era, she told press that her dream first-round encounter would be to take on either Williams sister - and a day later, the unveiled draw had her pitted against former champion Venus.
“I'm super shocked, but I'm just super blessed that Wimbledon decided to give me the wild card,” Gauff said in her post-match press conference. “I mean, I never expected this to happen.
“Obviously I literally got my dream draw, so I'm just super happy I was able to pull it out today. She played amazing, was just super nice. She's always been nice the couple times I met her.”
Gauff didn’t look nervous by the occasion, going toe to toe with one of the legends of the game and at her opponent’s favorite venue: Venus owns five Wimbledon trophies, more than any other player aside from Martina Navratilova and Serena Williams.
“On the court, I was not thinking about Venus - I was just playing my game,” Gauff said. “No matter who I play against, I want to win. So that's what I was just thinking about the whole time. I wasn't really thinking about who I was facing on the other side of the net.”
Just one break of serve made the difference in the opening set, and it was the 15-year-old who took the only break point on offer. She took the ball early against Venus and wasn’t afraid to finish points at the net, playing a clean game with only two unforced errors in the first set - one of which was a double fault.
Court 1 seemed stunned into silence as Gauff broke the Venus serve at 3-2, and took the opening set in just 35 minutes.
The same pattern threatened to unfold in the second set, with Gauff once again grabbing the first break at 3-2 and extending her lead to 4-2. But the five-time Wimbledon champion across the net had other ideas, getting her first break of the Gauff serve to level at 4-4.
But Gauff wouldn’t be denied, and she sealed her dream debut with her fourth match point to claim the 6-4, 6-4 victory after an hour and 19 minutes.
“I said this before: I want to be the greatest,” Gauff said. "My dad told me that I could do this when I was eight. Obviously you never believe it. I'm still, like, not 100% confident, but you have to just say things.
“You never know what happens. If I went into this match saying, ‘Let's see how many games I can get against her,’ then I most definitely would not have won. My goal was to play my best. My dream was to win. That's what happened.”
Into her first-ever Grand Slam second-round match, Gauff’s next opponent won’t get any easier as Magdalena Rybarikova awaits in the next round. Rybarikova, a dangerous player who loves the grass courts, authored another big upset over No.10 seed Aryna Sabalenka earlier in the day.