Wimbledon 2022 – Coco Gauff’s first Grand Slam title will have to wait … but for how much longer?

LONDON – It could have been a devastating day for Coco Gauff.

She arrived at Wimbledon full of confidence and had her first major final at the French Open last month. Considered one of the favorites at the tournament, many believed this could be the Grand Slam where Gauff made her seemingly inevitable breakthrough and won the title.

And on Saturday, with the center court crowd firmly behind her and she clinched a dominant second-round win that she later described as one of the best tennis games she’s played on grass, the 18-year-old seemed very poised to be advancing in their third appearance for the third time in the fourth round at Wimbledon.

Gauff had a brilliant start against her compatriot Amanda Anisimova and took a 3-0 lead. But nothing was easy after that. Anisimova won the next four games, and Gauff needed a tie break to win the opener.

The rest of the game, she won just three more games. Ultimately, 20-year-old Anisimova prevailed 6-7(4) 6-2 6-1 to reach her first round of 16 at the All England Club and Gauff received the earliest dismount of her career at the club tournament. Gauff stormed off quickly after the match, but several hours – and a mixed doubles win – later she was able to think outside the box.

“I mean, I’m disappointed, but at the same time I think I did what I could in the game at that moment,” Gauff said on Saturday night. “She played well. I mean I played well at moments and didn’t play well at some moments. She was just the better player today.

“So I think there’s just a lot that I need to improve on. I feel like I can get better. I feel like I’m getting over it [European] Trip literally every day I got better and that’s all I can ask for.”

Now Gauff turns her attention to her mixed doubles run with Jack Sock – they reached the quarter-finals with another win on Sunday – and will then focus on the upcoming hard-court segment of the summer. While she hasn’t been sure of her schedule for the lead-in events ahead of the US Open, one thing is certain: she will remain a contender at the final Major of the year and will have all the expectations and attention that has followed her since she appeared on the scene for the first time.

Even before her promising major debut at the All England Club in 2019, in which she defeated longtime idol Venus Williams on center court in her opener and eventually reached the fourth round, Gauff’s hopes were high. Many have seen her as the sport’s next big superstar since she started playing at the junior level.

Before she could legally drive, she was signed by Roger Federer’s agent Tony Godsick and found herself at the center of a clothing bidding war. Her run at Wimbledon three years ago was in many ways just the inevitable next step. And that success only fueled more enthusiasm.

However, her age placed restrictions on how much she could play on tour and the coronavirus pandemic disrupted much of the 2020 season. But while the casual fan may have been disappointed by her lack of big results on the Grand Slam stage, Gauff continued to improve her game and produce consistent results on tour. She won two singles titles in Linz and Parma and four doubles titles, including her first-ever 1000-level title in Doha, Qatar (with Jessica Pegula) in February. She reached the quarterfinals at the French Open in 2021 and played in the doubles final (with Catherine McNally) at the US Open in September.

And then she had the best result of her career at the French Open. Gauff didn’t drop a set en route to the finals and never spent more than 90 minutes on court. As previous major champions and top seedlings continued to fall in her half of the draw, she confessed to Pegula, her doubles partner, that she knew she did people now expected her to win her matches, but she didn’t let that bother her.

Everything, it seemed, was falling into place just as it should.

But Iga Swiatek was just too good in the final and there was no doubt in the 6-1, 6-3 against Gauff. The American couldn’t hide her tears at the end, but still knew there was plenty to celebrate.

“I know I’ve said a lot, ‘Oh, it’s just a tennis match, you know, it doesn’t matter’. [but] Really, I think so,” said Gauff after the French Open final. “It does not matter. I mean, with the emotions, I’m feeling it a lot now, but tomorrow I’m going to wake up and be really proud of myself.”

Then, as the season turned to grass – a surface Gauff has previously found success on and on which Swiatek has limited experience – Gauff was a betting favorite to win the Wimbledon title. She reached the semifinals at her lone lead-in tournament in Berlin. Even Rafael Nadal praised her fighting spirit, predicting earlier this week that she would one day be a “multiple Grand Slam winner”.

But it shouldn’t be. Not this time.

Over the years, many teenagers have toured to win Grand Slam titles, including Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, and more recently with players like Bianca Andreescu and Emma Raducanu. There’s been a lot of talk about Gauff making the prestigious list, and she still has plenty of time to do so, but it doesn’t seem like something she’s fixated on.

“It’s more a media thing than her,” said ESPN analyst Alexandra Stevenson, who reached the 1999 Wimbledon semi-finals as an 18-year-old qualifier. “She has such a great perspective on what is expected of her. She’s just taking it one day at a time and not caring what other people think Everyone has an opinion, but all she has to do is listen to her parents, her coaches and herself.

“Nobody else [opinions] Matter. And she does. She believes in herself, knows she can do it, and she’s fine. Even if she loses, she knows what to work on and she’ll get right back to work.”

Perhaps ironically, or perhaps because of the extra attention, Gauff has posted the worst results of her short US Open career. She reached the third round on her debut in 2019 and then lost in her opener in 2020 and in the second round in 2021. But she said she wouldn’t even think about the tournament or the hard-court season until her time at Wimbledon was over.

On Saturday evening, just a few hours after the defeat, Gauff was back on the pitch. It was the smaller No. 3 court this time, and she was joined by Sock, but she was just as excited to be there as she was on Center Court. The duo, who came together via Twitter, won their first-round match 6-4, 6: 1, and their partnership gave her a new purpose for the time being.

“Right after the game [against Anisimova] I was so disappointed. Then I thought, ‘I’m still mixed; I’m just going to have fun out there.” I had a lot of fun. I laughed, smiled at every point. With the intensity of singles and even doubles, that’s not really often [to be able to do that].

“Yeah, for me it was kind of crazy to play with him. It was definitely a bucket list for me and I’m glad I was able to do that. I hope we can keep winning.”

https://www.espn.com/tennis/story/_/id/34189933/wimbledon-2022-coco-gauff-first-grand-slam-title-wait-how-much-longer Wimbledon 2022 – Coco Gauff’s first Grand Slam title will have to wait … but for how much longer?

Emma Bowman

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