Life Away From The Limelight Will Be The Making Of Coco Gauff
Ultimately, Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep were the ones who added their name to the famous winners’ board in the entranceway to the Wimbledon clubhouse, a place few get to see and even fewer get to leave a mark, but neither champion provided the most compelling storyline of the Championships.
Coco Gauff, a 15-year-old playing her first ever Grand Slam, caught the imagination by making a run all the way to the fourth round. It’s not uncommon for young stars to be inspired by the surroundings of a place like Wimbledon, but this felt like something different - the birth of a transcendental star.
Indeed, while there wasn’t a victory as symbolic as Roger Federer’s defeat of Pete Sampras back in 2001 Gauff’s Wimbledon run had the same sort of air about it. She will, barring injury and gross misfortune, be a Grand Slam winner at some point in the future. That looks all but certain.
Gauff can’t afford to take that sort of progression for granted, though. The teenager still has to work for it and this was made apparent to her by the defeat suffered in the first round of the Washington Open. This, in her first senior tournament after Wimbledon, was a return to earth for Gauff and underlined just how far she has still to go.
It’s in these sort of tournaments away from the majors where Gauff will face her toughest, at least mentally, tests. It’s easy for a young player to find inspiration at places like Wimbledon or Melbourne Park or Roland Garros or Flushing Meadows. But on the WTA tour is where Gauff will have to find consistency to keep the wheels of progress turning.
What's more, Gauff will have to learn with the pressure that will now be heaped on her following her mainstream breakthrough. Thousands of fans turned up to the Washington Open purely to watch the 15-year-old in her first round match on Tuesday night. That will be common in the build up to the US Open next month.
And at the US Open itself Gauff will be an attraction. It seems likely she will be put on the show courts for as long as she is in the tournament, because that reflects the appeal she holds, especially to the American tennis public excited about the teenager billed as the next Serena or Venus Williams.
“Every loss, there's something I learn from that, so I learned something about myself,” Gauff explained after her defeat to Zarina Diyas. This demonstrates an encouraging mindset from the teenager. While she looked close to the finished article just two weeks ago at SW19, there will be dips in her form as is natural for players of her age.
Gauff will still play doubles at the Washington Open with 17-year-old Catherine McNally. This again demonstrates her willingness and hunger to keep improving, to put in the groundwork that in time will give her the platform to win the Grand Slam titles so many expect from her. It’s these sort of tournaments and these sort of defeats that could be the making of Gauff.