They represent the very highest order of three distinct phases of a professional tennis career: 

  1. An ascending phenomenon, at 18, the youngest in the draw, with legitimate title aspirations nonetheless.
  2. Today’s dominant player, in her absolute prime, looking for a 37th consecutive match-victory.
  3. Two former Wimbledon champions, 30-something athletes seeking to again find the passion that produced the moment of their tennis lives.

Coco Gauff. Iga Swiatek. Petra Kvitova. Simona Halep. They’re all playing second-round matches Wednesday at Wimbledon.

No.11 Coco Gauff vs. Mihaela Buzarnescu

She took our breath away three years ago when she advanced to Wimbledon’s fourth round – at the age of 15. Now, she’s among the handful of players considered a serious threat to win the title.

“Honestly, I feel like I’m a lot more relaxed than when I was considered the sensation,” the 18-year-old told reporters after winning her first-round match. “I mean, I did well, wasn’t expecting to, but it felt like everybody wanted the results to happen now, now, now.

“I feel like I learned so much not to put pressure on now, now, now. I felt like I was a little bit delusional in my head about how much people wanted me to win, whereas now I feel like if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”

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That balanced perspective was one of the chief reasons Gauff survived a first-round struggle with Elena-Gabriela Ruse 2-6, 6-3, 7-5. She was tentative, her forehand was misfiring, she failed to convert an astounding 21 break points, but Gauff won with less than her best stuff. It was a veteran performance and, in a sense, Gauff is already a seasoned competitor.

When she meets Buzarnescu, a 6-4, 6-2 winner over Nastasja Schunk, it will be her 37th singles match in a Grand Slam, the 121st overall. Earlier this month, she lost in the final at Roland Garros to Iga Swiatek and, less than two weeks ago, to Ons Jabeur in the semifinals at Berlin. Those would be the two favorites to win Wimbledon; Gauff is the third.

“It’s definitely an art just because it’s impossible to play the best every day,” Gauff said. “Today I think even though I lost against Iga, I lost against Ons, today I played even worse in moments of the match. I think that’s what makes you a champion and what makes you get to that next level, is how you figure out how to win in these tough moments. I think today made me a better player.”

Gauff and Buzarnescu have never played, but already the young American has developed a comfortable history at Wimbledon. She’s made the fourth round in each of her previous tries and has won 10 of her past 12 matches in 2022.

Swiatek, who is 3-0 against Gauff, cited her serve and flat backhand – and the ability to come forward and finish points.

“When I was her age, basically I had no idea how to play volleys, so that’s pretty impressive,'" Swiatek said. "I feel like she’s developing every month even. I’m pretty sure that she’s going to win Grand Slams soon.”

No.1 Iga Swiatek vs. Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove 

On Tuesday, Swiatek opened play on Centre Court, just ahead of her idol, Rafael Nadal. Meeting with reporters afterward, she was asked if they were keeping her from watching his match.

“That’s true,” Swiatek said, setting the hook. “Let’s make it quick.”

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She smiled and it was evident that the 21-year-old from Poland is growing increasingly comfortable in the skin of the world’s No.1-ranked player. Her achievements in 2022 are far beyond anything from her so-called peers. History is becoming a better means of measure. 

Swiatek’s 6-0, 6-3 victory over Croatian qualifier Jana Fett was her 36th in a row, the longest WTA win streak of the 21st Century. She surpassed Serena Williams’ 34 straight (2013) by winning the French Open, and vaulted past Venus Williams’ 35 (2000) with the win over Fett. Swiatek is now even with Monica Seles (1990) and one behind Martina Hingis (1997). If she advances to the fourth round, Swiatek will have produced the longest run since 1990.

Swiatek was asked if she felt she belonged in the company of the Williams’ sisters, who have won a dozen Wimbledon titles between them.

“Not really, because still when I see Serena or see Venus, they seem like the legends,” Swiatek said. “I don’t consider myself a legend. They’re the greatest of all time in tennis. But it’s amazing for me to have that kind of streak. It just shows how much work we’ve been putting for every match. I didn’t know it’s going to be possible for me to show that much consistency, and actually to win tournaments.”

Kerkhove, who lost in qualifying but was granted a berth in the main draw when Danka Kovinic withdrew, was a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 winner over wildcard Sonay Kartel. She and Swiatek have never played.

No.16 Simona Halep vs. Kirsten Flipkens

In her 10th Wimbledon, Halep defeated Karolina Muchova 6-3, 6-2. It was her first match win at the All England Club since she won the title three years ago, defeating Serena in the final.

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The global pandemic canceled Wimbledon in 2020 and a series of injuries in what she has called her most difficult year ever, kept her out of the 2021 event. This year, it’s been better – especially on grass. Halep was a semifinalist in two grass events coming into Wimbledon, Birmingham and Bad Homburg. 

‘If I’m forced to stop tomorrow, I am very satisfied with everything I’ve done [in my career],” Halep said in response to a hypothetical question. “But I don’t want to stop. I’m not thinking about that. I feel like I can improve more.”

No.25 Petra Kvitova vs. Ana Bogdan

The first-round match against Jasmine Paolini did not start well for Kvitova, and she could be forgiven for wondering if this was going to be another empty trip to the All England Club. The 32-year-old from the Czech Republic won the title at Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014. Since then, she’s failed to get past the fourth round. Kvitova, whose powerful, flat strokes were built for grass-court tennis, rallied to beat Paolini 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 and will meet Bogdan, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over Dayana Yastremska. This is another first-time encounter.

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Kvitova was idling along with a 10-13 record for 2022, but grass has had a healing effect on her game. Kvitova won the title at Eastbourne with five solid matches, defeating Jelena Ostapenko in the final, and now has a six-match win streak.

"Tennis, it’s pretty tricky in this case,” Kvitova said. “Well, not really tricky for Iga, as we see, but for other ones it is. It’s just different. It’s different conditions, different grass. I hope that next match can be a little bit better hopefully.”

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2022 Eastbourne

Other notable matches:

  • No.4 Paula Badosa vs. Irina Bara
  • No.6 Karolina Pliskova vs. Katie Boulter
  • No.17 Elena Rybakina vs. Bianca Andreescu
  • No.20 Amanda Anisimova vs. Lauren Davis