CoCo Gauff swings like there’s no tomorrow and wins again
That’s six sets for two matches so far and sweetly into the third round for Djokovic
Cori Gauff in action during her second round match against Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia. Photograph: Getty Images
A few years ago some of the eastern European players, whose English was often broken learned some whole phrases to pepper their conversations in interviews.
They would come in to the post-match press conference and deliver sentences like ‘much good today, very, very good. I come to . . . eh . . . play and . . . I swing like there is no tomorrow.’
So the latest 21st century teen phenomenon CoCo Gauff chose to open her late match under the closed roof on court number one by serving and came out where she left off against one of her icons Venus Wiilliams. Gauff came out swinging against Slovak Magdalena Rybarikova.
Those who had rushed from Court Two to the new location for the night game may have missed the 15-year-old’s very serious young face and early rush of adrenalin in her opening game.
“My motto is just wing it,” she said after dethroning Williams adding somewhat sagely, morosely or maybe just teenagey; “this is a kind of sad thing, we’re all going to die one day . . . I just want to make the most of it.”
From the off Gauff had the momentum and the energy of the crowd. Her 30-year-opponent must have sensed that all the enclosed love around the court was unconditionally for the youngster. It usually is.
And her tennis matched the moment, its fearless nature, its variety and although the quips going around were about the teenager’s bedtime, her sharpness around court as Rybarikova tried to vary her game seemed only to reinforce Gauff’s control.
Currently ranked 139 in the world, the Slovak at one point in her career was as high as 17 and almost a decade ago created her own ‘fairytale’ in becoming the lowest ranked player to make the semifinals. But the more she looked for an opening the more ruthless Gauff became to close out all options.
It took 20 minutes and six games to break Rybarikova to love and take a 4-2 lead and within minutes 4-2 became 5-2, with Gauff racing so boldly forward there was little time to reflect on her record breaking run.
Already the youngest in the Open Era to qualify for the Wimbledon main draw, Gauff was running at a 97 percentage win off her first serve. After 28 minutes the first set was bagged 6-3.
Relentlessly under pressure Rybarikova’s unforced errors were running at twice those of Gauff, who was taking nothing off her shots, some of the serves touching 127 mph.
Service break in the second set seemed absurdly inevitable and that came with a Slovak forehand going long for 2-1. Rybarikova sensibly tried to boss Gauff from the net but she was passed. She tried baseline rallies but was over powered and she was not as accurate. Where to go next was written in her expression.
The odd unforced error from the teenager drew sympathetic applause from the crowd for her opponent. But alive to their witnessing of something of a tennis epiphany they just wanted it to never end.
A brave hold in the fifth game of set two gave Rybarikova a glimmer hope and she took Gauff to deuce for the second time in the next game. An ace and unmanageable first serve settled that for 4-2 and momentum again lurched forward.
The end point of the night was another service break for 6-3, 6-3 in 69 minutes, the match only a beginning for the 15-year-old.
“I think I played well especially on the pressure points,” said Gauff. “I’m still shocked I’m still here. I think I can beat anyone who is across the court. If I don’t think I can win I won’t even step on the court.”
Doubtless in the men’s draw there were a few on Wednesday who harboured the fantasy of Ivo Karlovic making it through the first week and meeting Reilly Opelke.
Karlovic at 6’11’’ and Opelke at almost seven feet could theoretically have met in a freakish semi-final. All of those one shot or no shot rallies, games made up of aces, double faults and non returnable serves and balls coming out of the clouds vaporising the eight millimetre Wimbledon grass.
Well that fetish died on court 14 as the punchy 5’8’’ Thomas Fabbiano rolled over 40-year-old Karlovic 6-3, 6-7(8), 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-4, while Opelka overcame the three times Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka, 7-5, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 8-6, both matches surging over the three hour mark.
The seven foot American, a former Wimbledon junior champion in 2015 aged 17 when he was a mere 6’10’’, moves forward to meet Milos Raonic, never accused of being vertically challenged either.
A lot of rallies in that one, Opelka was sarcastically informed after his minor epic. “Yeah, definitely not,” he replied. “Fortunately I have seen it a few times already playing Anderson, Isner, Querrey. There so many guys now that are similar, similar styles, big guys, big serves.”
Karlovic departs leaving a vapour trail of 58 aces in two matches, Raonic has hit 46 aces and Opelke 38 aces, the first, second and third highest in the tournament so far.
Top billing Novak Djokovic may have taken four match points before ending the short run of American Denis Kudla. But his straight set victory over the 111 ranked 26-year-old was, despite dropping serve a couple of times, relatively swift in one hour 33 minutes. That’s six sets for two matches so far and sweetly into the third round.