Black History Month:
Gauff's Wimbledon bow, 2019
Arthur Kapetanakis | February 24, 2020
Recency bias often leads to the glorification of the latest sporting achievements. But Coco Gauff’s 2019 Wimbledon run, one of the most memorable coming-out parties in all of sports lore, was historic by any measure.
Entering qualifying with just one WTA main-draw win to her name, the 15-year-old’s first appearance at the All-England Club made her an instant superstar—and not just in the tennis world—despite her entering the event as an unknown to many casual tennis fans.
Gauff’s dazzling display began with three dominant qualifying wins, including victory over the play-in tourney’s top seed, making her the youngest player to qualify for Wimbledon in the Open era. Her dream run into the main draw was then met with a dream first-round opponent in idol Venus Williams.
Wimbledon’s No. 1 Court was the setting for Gauff’s Grand Slam main-draw debut. ADVERTISEMENT (She had attempted qualifying just once before at a major, when she fell in the second play-in round at the French Open.) In the tournament’s most anticipated opening-round match—at least on this side of the pond—Gauff was remarkably in control, pulling of the upset of Williams, 24 years her elder, 6-4, 6-4.
“On the court, I was not thinking about Venus,” Gauff explained after the win. “I was just playing my game. No matter who I play against, I want to win. So that’s what I was just thinking about the whole time. I wasn’t really thinking about who I was facing on the other side of the net.”
The shock result saw Gauff make headlines around the world, and the American fueled the hype with a comfortable, 6-3, 6-3 win over former Wimbledon semifinalist Magdalena Rybarikova in Round 2.
With “Coco-mania” in full effect, Gauff’s third-round match was scheduled for Centre Court at the All England Club. On Wimbledon’s biggest stage, she prevailed in one of the matches of the tournament, saving two match points to defeat Polona Hercog, 3-6, 7-6, 7-5.
“Right now, I’m just relieved that it’s over,” Gauff said, post-match. “I always knew that I could come back, whatever the score is. I just really went for my shots.”
With her passage to Wimbledon’s second week secured, Gauff spent Middle Sunday prepping for a Round of 16 meeting with former world No. 1 and eventual champion Simona Halep. A battling, 6-3, 6-3 loss to the Romanian did little to diminish the luster of the previous week.
On each of the four main-draw days Gauff played, her match was the most-watched on ESPN’s coverage, with a peak of 1.225 million viewers for her meeting with Halep, according to the network.
She earned nearly $250,000 in prize money for her efforts, and jumped up from No. 313 to No. 141 in the WTA rankings. But the best part of Gauff's story is that it is just beginning.