July 1, 2020
Do you remember what Coco Gauff did on the first Wednesday of Wimbledon last year?
She won again. She demonstrated her courage against the odds once more.
The kind of thing she’ll be doing at Wimbledon 2021, too
Last summer the 15-year-old had something to prove. She needed to show her sensational victory over Venus Williams wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
To beat Venus in the first round was one of those extraordinary moments. Coco had always been inspired by the Williams sisters.
A one-off giant-killing can and does happen in sport. Then reality usually returns.
Coco would come crashing back down to earth in round two. Wouldn’t she?
Especially when she had to play the 2017 Wimbledon semi-finalist – Magdalena Rybarikova.
The battle was staged on Court One. Another grown woman against the child. For that’s what Gauff still was.
Another huge occasion. A lot for a teenager to handle. The world had sat up and taken notice. Could she deliver again?
Coco had recently received some good, simple advice. ‘Just have fun and enjoy it.’
Her interpretation of enjoyment was to feel the freedom to play her best tennis. To appreciate her surroundings and relax.
What we saw from Coco against Rybarikova was another extraordinary display of confidence.
The sense of fun didn’t dull her competitve edge. It translated into huge, free-flowing forehands and backhands.
She wasn’t tight in front of another huge Wimbledon crowd.
Her movement belonged to an adult. She covered every inch of the court.
Every blade of the beautiful grass.
Rybarikova hardly knew what had hit her. Every time she thought she was about to get a foothold, Coco simply took it away with her athleticism and determination.
Before we knew it, Gauff had managed to triumph 6-3, 6-3. That’s when we realised that the 15-year-old was no one-hit wonder.
She was a phenomenon.
The television audiences were starting to build. How far could the wonder-kid go?
We would witness something even more extraordinary on the first Friday. But let’s revisit those incredible events in a couple of days.
For now, let’s just remember the kind of youngster Coco was last year.
She appreciated the simple things in life. She was humble and grounded.
She saw playing in the Wimbledon main draw as an extraordinary adventure.
Those were the three words Coco chose to describe what was happening to her.
But she wasn’t overawed by Wimbledon. She embraced its unique character.
‘Walking around the grounds of Wimbledon, it’s so pretty, it’s literally like one big garden,’ she beamed.
That’s how Coco saw the stage for her heroics. Intimate. Almost homely.
And she’s right, isn’t she? That’s what we’re missing so much this year.
Wimbledon, our pretty garden. How we’ll all love returning for Wimbledon 2021.
For now we can cherish the memories Coco gave us this time last year. We can remember the mounting excitement.
And next summer we’ll welcome her back and see how much she has grown as a player.
She’ll be a contender for the Wimbledon 2021 title. Someone to make Americans proud. Someone to make us all proud.
Her story captured all our hearts twelve months ago.
At Wimbledon 2021 we’ll welcome Coco back like a daughter we haven’t seen for so long.
We can’t wait. How about you?