Coco Gauff on track for another Wimbledon run

Coco Gauff
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WIMBLEDON, England — Do not get the wrong idea about Coco Gauff and assume that, just because she’s already displayed so much talent and promise by age 17, occasions such as Thursday’s, when she played a woman twice her age at Centre Court, are in any way glossed over as “Been there, done that.”

This is, after all, the most famous arena in tennis. This is, after all, Wimbledon. And Gauff is, after all, still relatively new to a lot of this: She began the week having played a total of two grass-court events and seven Grand Slam tournaments, one of which, of course, was her captivating run to the fourth round at the All England Club as a 15-year-old qualifier two years ago.

So, yes, there was some shakiness early against Elena Vesnina, a 34-year-old Russian who said afterward, “I saw that she was nervous.” Gauff acknowledged so afterward. So maybe that’s why she was the first to face break points. Or managed merely one groundstroke winner in the opening set. Still, the newcomer did what veterans do — find a way — and emerged with a 6-4, 6-3 victory to return to Wimbledon’s third round.


“With a little bit of adversity for the first time, she went for her shots and she stayed committed to the serve,” said Gauff’s father, Corey. “So I was impressed with that — her poise.”

That matters at this level and on these stages, where one bad afternoon can send someone home.

While many familiar faces still are chasing the men’s title this fortnight — eight-time champion Roger Federer and No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev, No. 4 Alexander Zverev and No. 7 Matteo Berrettini all won; No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s bid for a sixth title resumes Friday — Elina Svitolina’s loss Thursday means eight of the top 11 women in the WTA rankings are missing from the bracket due to defeat, withdrawal or injury.

“Mentally, for sure, I need to reset. I need to rest,” No. 3 seed Svitolina said after producing 20 fewer winners than her foe in a 6-3, 6-4 loss to Magda Linette. “I need to feel, again, fresh to play the upcoming tournaments.”

No. 1 Ash Barty, who retired mid-match against Linette at the French Open last month because of a hip injury, was not at her best but overcame nine double-faults to advance with a 6-4, 6-3 win on a day with no rain, some slices of blue sky and even the sun sneaking through the clouds as the temperature finally topped 70 degrees.

“Not my best serving day,” Barty said. “I was just out of rhythm a little bit. Some days you feel like you’re 8 feet tall and you can’t miss the box. Other days, like today, you feel like you’re 3-foot-nothing.”

Gauff’s serve provided nine aces, including seven in the first set when a lot else wasn’t really working.

A 118 mph delivery on match point was dumped in the net by Vesnina. Up in the player guest box, Gauff’s parents rose. Dad clapped, then kissed Mom, who captured their daughter’s moment with a cellphone camera. It was a bit more subdued than the raucous celebrations two years ago, when Gauff was a revelation.

Ranked outside the Top 300 and the youngest player to make it through qualifying in tournament history, she went on to beat five-time champion Venus Williams in the first round and 2017 semifinalist Magdalena Rybarikova in the second, before saving two match points to get past Polona Hercog in the main stadium.

Next came a fourth-round exit against Simona Halep, who went on to collect the trophy (three of Gauff’s major appearances ended with losses to the eventual champion, including Barbora Krejcikova at the just-concluded French Open).

“The biggest thing is, I don’t really remember much from my Centre Court experience in 2019,” said Gauff, who is based in Florida. “I don’t know. I felt like it was all a blur.”

Back then, everything was so fresh and new and unexpected. The question on everyone’s mind: Is she really doing this?

Now the vibe is: She most certainly can.

Her parents know it. So do the spectators. And the 20th-seeded Gauff’s opponents.

“Such a talented and promising player,” said Vesnina, a three-time Grand Slam champion in women’s doubles who was treated by a trainer for a back spasm she said was caused by stretching to try to reach Gauff’s serves. “She has a bright future in front of her.”

Sure does. Most important, Gauff herself knows it.

“I don’t really like the word ‘expectations.’ I don’t like that word. I think I use more the other word: ‘belief.’ I believe that I can win. I think I believed that back in 2019, and I believe that now. I don’t think anything has changed. My goal is to always win the tournament, regardless of my ranking or what people think of me,” she said. “What I will say is that goal, I guess, is more clear right now than it was in 2019. I think just my belief is a lot stronger now, the feeling that I can go far.”

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2023 French Open women’s singles draw, scores

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At the French Open, Iga Swiatek of Poland eyes a third title at Roland Garros and a fourth Grand Slam singles crown overall.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Swiatek, the No. 1 seed from Poland, can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

Having turned 22 on Wednesday, she can become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Men’s Draw

But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her last pre-French Open match with a right thigh injury and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the No. 4 seed and Wimbledon champion, are the top challengers in Paris.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula, the highest-seeded American man or woman, was eliminated in the third round.

No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, is the best hope to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Women’s Singles Draw

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2023 French Open men’s singles draw, scores

French Open Men's Draw
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).

No. 9 Taylor Fritz and No. 12 Frances Tiafoe are the highest-seeded Americans, looking to become the first U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003. Since then, five different American men combined to make the fourth round on eight occasions.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

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