Wimbledon 2019

Talent counts, not fate

With several upsets at Wimbledon, young American Cori Gauff is capturing the hearts of her fans back home in Delray Beach, Florida.
Cori in ecstasy after beating Polona Hercog in the Wimbledon round of 32 on Friday. She says losing tough matches since she took up tennis at age eight "definitely prepared me for today".
Cori in ecstasy after beating Polona Hercog in the Wimbledon round of 32 on Friday. She says losing tough matches since she took up tennis at age eight "definitely prepared me for today".PHOTO: DPA
Above: Corey and Candi Gauff celebrating after their daughter Cori won her match. Cori says her dad's positive thinking and her mum's calm nature is a good mix for her. Left: Cori in ecstasy after beating Polona Hercog in the Wimbledon round of 32 on
Corey and Candi Gauff celebrating after their daughter Cori won her match. Cori says her dad's positive thinking and her mum's calm nature is a good mix for her.PHOTO: REUTERS

Teen sensation Gauff tackles Halep next, credits parents for keeping her focused

LONDON • Cori Gauff stood near the net, watching a lob from Polona Hercog sail over her head and across the shadows at Centre Court on Friday evening.

"Please go out, please," Gauff said what was on her mind.

The 15,000 spectators in the stands - most of them newly minted Gauff supporters - were probably thinking the same thing.

If the lob went in, it would be a winner. If it went out, another milestone would belong to the 15-year-old who has, over the past five days, earned scores of fans at not only Wimbledon but also worldwide.

The ball landed long, setting off an immediate wave of cheers that shook the hallowed court as Gauff jumped up and down in delight.

"I was like, 'Wow, I can't believe it', it's been one long match. It's finally over!" said the American teenage sensation, who beat the 28-year-old Hercog 3-6, 7-6 (9-7), 7-5 in 2hr 47min.

"I always knew that I could come back no matter what the score was. The crowd was amazing. Even when I was down match point, they were still cheering me on."

She will next face Simona Halep in the round of 16 tomorrow after the Romanian's 6-3, 6-1 win over fellow former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka.

Gauff, who at 15 was the youngest player to qualify for the women's singles, had done the improbable yet again, beating a tour veteran at the All England Club.

This time she showed real mettle and remarkably bounced back after losing the first set and falling behind by 2-5 in the second, when her Slovenian opponent reached the first of two match points.

While she prayed for Hercog's lob to go out, Gauff does not believe that fate will play a role if she is to go on and win Wimbledon and it will be solely down to her own talent.

"I feel like you can kind of change your own world," said the teenager, who beat five-time champion Venus Williams in the first round before taking the scalp of former semi-finalist Magdalena Rybarikova.

"Sometimes fate can be a bad thing. I'm always hearing... You're going to do this one day, do that one day. I try not to think of it as my destiny. But it was pretty surreal how life changes in a matter of seconds.

"I remember before I played Venus, when you walk to leave the practice courts, one little kid asked me for a picture. Then after the next day, after I played Venus, everybody was screaming my name."

Gauff, who is bidding to emulate the then-15-year-old Jennifer Capriati in 1991 in reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals, added that the tough defeats she has had since she took up a racket aged eight have been a learning curve.

"I feel like you kind of have to experience the down moments to be able to experience the high," she said. "I think just losing the tough, tough matches definitely prepared me for today."

Her parents - her father Corey who coached her in her early years and her mother Candi - were also keeping her focused.

"My dad, he's the reason why I dream so big. I think the kind of believing part of my dad and the more stay focused, stay calm of my mum is like a good mix," Gauff said.

Off the court, she said the most surprising but exciting thing that had happened in reaction to her run at Wimbledon was from pop megastar Beyonce's mother.

"Miss Tina Knowles, Beyonce's mum, posted me on Instagram," she said. "I was, like, screaming. I don't know, like I hope Beyonce saw that.

"I hope she told her daughter about me because I would love to go to a concert."

NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 07, 2019, with the headline 'Talent counts, not fate'. Print Edition | Subscribe