London: American teenager Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff has captured the hearts of fans with her dream run to Wimbledon’s fourth round but a stern examination awaits in the form of seventh seed Simona Halep on Monday.
The 15-year-old’s popularity has soared off the charts in a memorable week at the All England Club, with organisers also recognising her potential to grab attention and giving her a Centre Court match-up in the third round.
Gauff did not disappoint, saving two match points to beat Polona Hercog 3-6, 7-6(7), 7-5, and similarities with compatriot Jennifer Capriati, who broke into the top 10 at the age of 14, became harder to ignore.
“I would be wrong to… give her advice,” Serena Williams, who take on Carla Surarez Navarro in the third round, said. “There are some 15-year-olds, like me, who wouldn’t know what to do at Wimbledon. Then you have Coco… (who is) on a different level. She’s capable and ready.”
Gauff’s success has been put down to her on-court thinking and ever-changing strategy, an inherent ability to try different things when the going gets tough. But in former world number one Halep, she faces a potentially daunting task.
Halep’s baseline play could prove difficult for Gauff to overcome as some of her forehand returns have been punished in the first week, while the Romanian’s backhand is a force to be reckoned with.
“I watch her a lot,” Gauff said. “I’ve never… practised with her. I don’t know how the ball would feel but I’m really familiar (with) how she plays just from watching her a lot.”
While Martina Hingis and Monica Seles won Grand Slams at the age of 16, the level-headed Gauff has paid little attention to suggestions that she is the next big thing in women’s tennis.
Kvitova faces Konta
Double Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova began this year’s tournament with questions over her fitness due to a niggling left forearm injury but the gutsy Czech has cast all doubts aside with a series of ruthless displays to march into the second week.
The 29-year-old missed the French Open and the Birmingham Classic due to the problem but has stormed into the last 16 at Wimbledon for the first time since her 2014 triumph and faces local favourite Johanna Konta. “I played aggressive. It was the key. From the first point, I felt great… as I mentioned already many times before, the pain can come in the forearm and I have to retire. I’m not looking too (far) ahead,” Kvitova said after her previous match.
Konta, the only remaining Briton in the singles, is overcoming a dip in form that halted her progress last season following her rise to world number four in 2017.
The 28-year-old missed out on her first title of the season by losing finals in Rabat and Rome, before reaching the semifinals of the French Open.
“She’s a two-time Wimbledon champion. Her favourite surface and best surface is grass. I’m going to be coming up against a very inspired and tough Petra,” Konta said.
“Since coming back from that terrible thing that happened with her, she’s playing unbelievable tennis. I’m looking forward to playing a great champion.” In the other interesting contests of the fourth round, top seeded Australian Ashleigh Barty face Alison Riske of America while Czech Republic third seed Karolina Pliskova face compatriot Karolina Muchova.