July 2, 2019
Cori “Coco” Gauff showed the men what fearless youth can do at sunny Wimbledon.
But for rising stars Stefanos Tsitsipas and Sascha Zverev the dream died early at the greatest Grand Slam.
The shocks had begun on Centre Court when world number two Naomi Osaka saw her confidence seep away during a strange defeat to Yuri Putintseva.
By the end, Osaka said later, she just wanted to cry.
She was barely able to shake hands, clearly wishing the hallowed grass would swallow her up before escaping to the sanctuary of the locker room.
Over on Court One another upset was brewing and there were more tears – this time of joy.
Apparently, 15 years and 122 days are all the living you need to play like the finished article and defeat one of your idols.
The incredible Gauff beat 39-year-old Venus Williams 6-4, 6-4 and admitted: ‘It’s the first time I have ever cried after winning a match.’
Venus had won four Grand Slam titles and two Wimbledons even before Gauff was born. She and sister Serena kept winning and became Coco’s ‘inspiration.’
The teenager was able to tell the legend ‘I wouldn’t be here without you.’
In theory, the young male hopefuls of world tennis should already be putting the superstars in their place at Grand Slams too.
Except that it isn’t happening.
Should we blame the pressure of expectation or the short grass-court season? Maybe the fact that youngsters such as Tsitsipas and Zverev have everything they want in life already?
They are something akin to tennis rock stars. But they haven’t yet come up with a song that will always be remembered.
Much is made of sports psychology in the modern era. And tennis is one of the most psychological sports you can play.
So you would think Stef and Sascha might have these areas fully covered.
Instead, two charismatic, towering figures were exposed as vulnerable young men who buckled when they felt fresh weight on their shoulders.
Tsitsipas and Zverev are such likeable guys. They have beaten some of the greats before. It is just that they can’t seem to get close on the biggest stage of all.
At least they are not scared to lay bare their emotions after suffering such crushing disappointments.
After Thomas Fabbiano beat him 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3, Tsitsipas certainly recognised he was no Nadal or Federer just yet.
The Greek said: ‘People expected things from me and I didn’t deliver. When you get so much support, so much energy, so much positivity from everyone and just ruin everything by yourself, it’s devastating.
‘Rafa and Roger had consistency from a young age…something we lack.’
He was referring to Zverev too, after world number 124 Jiri Vasely beat the German 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.
‘I didn’t lose this match on tennis,’ said Zverev. ‘It’s just that my confidence is below zero right now.’
But why? Sure, these youngsters are human and course we sympathise.
But to become great, you need to be hungry for success. Then greedy. Your appetite must be insatiable.
You also need to enjoy big moments and become addicted to that enjoyment.
Those emotional motivations must be so strong that they outweigh the fear of failure and keep you thriving in the big time.
For Gauff, there was no pressure against Venus. No fear of failure.
For Osaka, twice a major winner, there is already that daunting expectation. For Tsitsipas and Zverev it has been there for a while too, even without Slams to their name.
They can’t cope because they haven’t allowed hunger to become greed, or fun to hold sway.