September 28, 2020
Coco Gauff just reminded us why we cheered for her so passionately at Wimbledon last year.
Her spirit and ability to surprise is immensely entertaining and admirable – even when a British player is on the receiving end.
The sixteen-year-old American took down Britain’s Johanna Konta 6-3, 6-3 at Roland Garros.
Coco’s latest giant-killing feat was one of her most efficient. Not even a trademark dramatic comeback was necessary.
Think what Coco will be able to achieve at Wimbledon 2021!
That’s a truly exciting prospect. Another reason why we can’t wait for Wimbledon 2021 to arrive.
The whole world seemed to take Coco to their hearts at Wimbledon last summer.
She has struggled with the pressure at times since then and who wouldn’t?
Coco had lost three of her previous four matches going into the French. That’s what makes victory over Konta more surprising.
Coco mastered the chilly Parisian autumn with a steely determination.
Konta, in contrast, never looked comfortable and failed to adapt.
Coco said: ‘I’m definitely happy to come out with the win. It’s difficult to play in these conditions.’
British tennis fans can never feel entirely happy when one of their own players is beaten. But we are still delighted for Coco.
Gauff is well and truly back! And that’s terrific news for world tennis and Wimbledon alike.
Wimbledon 2021 was already going to be very special. These are the Championships where some of the legends may say their farewells.
At the same time the next generation of stars will arrive with a growing belief they are ready to take over.
Coco will be one of them. Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas will be two more popular pretenders to a Wimbledon crown.
Could Andy Murray make Wimbledon 2021 his last Grand Slam?
It’s more than possible if he can’t hit the heights in the next nine months.
In that case Murray would want to say farewell to British tennis fans at the All England Club, spiritual home of tennis.
Roger Federer and Serena Williams could also make Wimbledon 2021 their last in the singles.
At Roland Garros, Andy just couldn’t get going against Stan Wawrinka in their latest clash.
Their previous showdowns here have been classics. This one took just 87 minutes.
Stan showed why he is still the man with an emphatic 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 victory. So much for his old knee injuries.
We shouldn’t worry too much about Andy, though. Not yet.
This was Murray’s first clay-court match in three years, after all. But it still shouldn’t have ended so soon.
One word sums up Andy’s performance this time around. Flat.
Murray’s first serve is too flat because he protects his hip with a lower ball toss. So there is almost no margin for error.
Andy surely has to revisit that first-serve routine to improve his success rate.
He landed just 21 per cent of first serves in the opening set and 37 per cent overall.
‘That’s just not good enough against anyone. Especially someone as good as Stan,’ admitted Murray. ‘You want to be serving in the 60 per cent range.’
Andy was equally flat emotionally. In sports psychology there is a term called “optimal arousal.”
It’s when you are psyched up enough to get the best out of your body without becoming over-emotional.
But there’s also a danger you can go into sporting combat under-aroused and too detached emotionally.
It’s a tricky balance to get right. But Murray certainly didn’t achieve optimal arousal against Wawrinka.
Andy explained: ‘Over in the States I was getting frustrated in my matches. I was trying to keep my emotions in check on the court.
‘I don’t know whether that affected me. I was trying to be calmer than usual.’
But too calm means too flat. Murray will learn from this.
Novak Djokovic knows already. And that’s why he has vowed to continue giving vent to his emotions on court – despite his disqualification at Flushing Meadows.
Novak went beyond the point of optimal arousal in America.
But it’s just as much of a threat to a player’s performance to shut out those emotions completely.
Back to Coco and Jo. Konta had her chances. She squandered five break points in all.
Coco had trouble with her serve but not on the big points. She just refused to let the tide turn.
Coco said: ‘She’s a great competitor so I had to stay on my game.’
Konta may be a great competitor. But she seems almost averse to analysis of where she falls short in case it hurts her somehow.
‘I’d like to be better but I’m not going to hate myself,’ she told us after her Roland Garros exit.
No one wants Jo to hate herself. We just want her to address her approach to the big points so that she can achieve even more success in our sport.
If she doesn’t even admit to herself that she has a problem, then she can’t strengthen that weakness.
And you sense she gets through so many coaches because she really doesn’t like being told what she needs to hear.
The psychological element of tennis is massive and fascinating. Andy and Jo didn’t get it right at Roland Garros.
But Coco Gauff certainly did find the right mindset.
Maybe that’s why Coco is one of the world’s most impressive teenagers.