July 5, 2019
Coco Gauff jumped for joy as her opponent lobbed long and she realised she had pulled off the impossible.
The entire world jumped with her.
This child star has the power to move so many people and incredibly she seems to be able to handle the pressure against adults.
After the joy, a huge sigh. ‘Relief that it is over, it was my first match on Centre Court. They said Court Number One was my court but maybe this is my court too,’ she said.
In purely sporting terms, it shouldn’t have happened. She shouldn’t be ready to play Simona Halep next with the sporting planet watching enthralled.
Polona Hercog, a 28-year-old Slovenian, seemed to have too much for so long. The experience and strength of an adult. The technique to suppress the youngster.
Except that nothing could keep this youngster down. The kid just doesn’t know when to quit.
‘I always knew I could come back so I kept playing my shots,’ she explained almost nonchalantly.
Fifteen-year-olds don’t do this. They don’t reach the second week of Wimbledon.
They don’t come back from the dead when all seems lost and there seems little left to give after such a remarkable and draining week.
Coco Gauff faced two match points and looked finished at 3-6, 2-5. But she just wouldn’t give up.
Maybe there was just a little more she could squeeze out of herself. Nothing to lose.
First there was a glimmer of hope. Then something more. Would Coco’s token fight back fade when her opponent composed herself once more?
No. There was to be no fading away. Instead she showed a courage beyond her years to fight back and take a nailbiting tiebreak 9-7 to draw the match level.
It is one thing to display talent and fearlessness when no one expects you to achieve anything.
But as the first week went on, the pressure on Gauff increased.
It looked as though the Centre Court stage was proving too much for her.
Hercog’s booming forehand was doing some serious damage and suddenly Coco looked like a girl against a woman – which indeed she was.
We expected the match to finish early and Gauff would still have done herself proud.
She had already made her name world-famous by beating Venus Williams in the very first match.
We could simply have looked forward to seeing her next year, even stronger and better, ready for more heroics at Wimbledon.
But Gauff wasn’t done. From the moment she survived that eighth game of the second set and gave herself a lifeline at 3-5, she seemed to be filled with fresh energy and resolve.
Her parents were struggling to contain their emotions, particularly her mother Candy, who was almost bursting with pride.
Gauff kept winning games, battled ferociously as Hercog tightened, and took that momentum into the deciding set too.
Before we knew it, Gauff had raced into a 4-1 lead. Her opponent had back problems. It was all but over.
Then, agonisingly, it was Coco’s turn to tighten. Unforced errors crept into her game, her lead was eroded completely and she was on the brink of heartbreak at 4-4.
Once more she dug deep to summon the strength of a future champion. Her next service game was defiant, emphatic, magnificent. So was the one after that.
Coco Gauff just wouldn’t let Hercog off the hook until she had won the decider 7-5.
How she jumped for joy after that lob went long and she realised she had done it.
‘I’m just glad people believe in me,’ she said humbly afterwards.
Let’s face it, we are all jumping for joy. This teenager is amazing. This Wimbledon is amazing. One of the best ever.
And still more than a week to go!
photo by Katrina Allen