Friday, July 5, 2019

Gauff, 15, survives to reach round of 16 at Wimbledon

   The tennis world is going cuckoo for Coco.
   And we're not talking about CoCo Vandeweghe, who's injured.
   Cori "Coco" Gauff's dream run at Wimbledon continued today as the 15-year-old American qualifier saved two match points in a nerve-wracking 3-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5 triumph over Polona Hercog of Slovenia. 
   Gauff, an Atlanta native now based in Delray Beach, Fla., became the youngest player to reach the round of 16 at Wimbledon since Jennifer Capriati in 1991.
   Hercog, 28, led 5-2 (one service break) in the second set of the 2-hour, 47-minute battle. Gauff, playing on Centre Court for the first time, saved the first match point against her with a backhand slice down the line that almost was wide, and she held serve for 3-5. The 6-foot (1.83-meter) Hercog, ranked No. 60, double-faulted on her second match point for 4-5.
   Gauff bolted to a 4-1 lead in the third set, but Hercog rallied for 4-4. Hercog had a game point while serving at 5-6 but made two consecutive forehand errors to hand Gauff her first match point. A rally ended with Hercog hitting a lob long.
   "When I was walking on the court, I kind of wasn't nervous, but I was just like, 'Wow, I'm really on Centre Court, one of the most sacred courts in the world,' " Gauff told reporters. "When I was down 5-2, I was just like, 'I can fight back. Just need to hold serve, break, then we'll see what happens from there.' "
Former world No. 1 Simona Halep is scheduled to face
 15-year-old sensation Cori "Coco" Gauff on Monday in
 the round of 16 at Wimbledon. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Gauff, ranked No. 313, can crack the top 100 with a victory over seventh-seeded Simona Halep, on Monday. Halep, who won last year's French Open for her first and only Grand Slam title, whipped Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 6-1 in 66 minutes in a matchup of former world No. 1s.
   Gauff wasn't the only teenager to reach the round of 16. Dayana Yastremska, a 19-year-old Ukrainian, defeated Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland 7-5, 6-3.
   Two women's seeds lost to unseeded players. Zhang Shuai eliminated 14th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki 7-5, 6-3, and Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic beat 20th-seeded Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 7-6 (7), 6-3.
   Third-seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic and eighth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine advanced in three sets. In 2015, Pliskova reached the final of the Bank of the West Classic, which ended a 21-year run at Stanford in 2017, and Svitolina advanced to the semifinals in her only San Francisco Bay Area appearance.
   Meanwhile, three of the top 11 men's seeds lost to low seeds. 
   No. 26 seed Guido Pella, a 6-foot (1.83-meter) left-hander from Argentina, ousted a towering Wimbledon runner-up for the second consecutive year. He beat fourth-seeded Kevin Anderson, a 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) South African who lost to Novak Djokovic in last year's final, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (4).
   Pella last year rallied from two sets down to knock out 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Marin Cilic, the 2017 runner-up to Roger Federer, in the second round before falling to Mackenzie McDonald, who grew up in Piedmont in the Bay Area. McDonald has been out with an injury since losing in the first round of the French Open in late May.
   Anderson was playing in only his second tournament since the Australian Open in January because of a right elbow injury. In 2012, he reached the quarterfinals of the SAP Open in San Jose and played part-time for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis. The SAP Open and Capitals folded after the 2013 season.
   No. 23 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, a Spaniard who missed Wimbledon last year with groin and abdomen injuries, beat 10th seeded Karen Khachanov, a 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Russian, 6-3, 7-6 (3), 6-1.
   Also, 21st-seeded David Goffin of Belgium subdued 11th-seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in 3 hours, 31 minutes.
   Ugo Humbert, a 21-year-old French left-hander, surprised 19th-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime, an 18-year-old rising star from Canada, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.
   The top-seeded Djokovic needed three hours to defeat Hubert Hurkacz, a 22-year-old Pole who stands 6-foot-5 (1.96 meters), 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-4.
   Milos Raonic and Fernando Verdasco, who combined to win four singles titles in the SAP Open, advanced in straight sets.
   Raonic, the 15th seed and 2016 Wimbledon runner-up to Andy Murray, eliminated 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) Reilly Opelka, who won the boys singles title at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in 2015, 7-6 (1), 6-2, 6-1. 
   The unseeded Verdasco, a 35-year-old Spanish left-hander, beat 5-foot-8 (1.73-meter) Italian Thomas Fabbiano, a semifinalist in the $100,000 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger last August, 6-4, 7-6 (1), 6-4.
   Raonic never lost a set in three appearances in the SAP Open in San Jose, winning the last three titles before the tournament moved to Rio de Janeiro in 2014 after 125 years in Northern California.
   Verdasco won the 2010 SAP Open and reached the 2011 final, losing to Raonic.

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