Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff will be back on court at SW19 this afternoon against former world number one Simona Halep.
I first met Cori in 2016 at the opening of Patrick Mouratoglou’s new tennis academy in Nice.
She was 12 and a half – a little girl – but a very tall little girl.
There was nothing precocious about her and yet she was introduced to me as “this is Coco, she is going to be one of our big stars”.
Mouratoglou, who is Serena Williams’ coach, knew even then that she was something special.
He says he remembers “perfectly” the first day Cori came to his academy at 10 years old, and he still has the footage of a number of tests she passed to enter the academy.
The coach added she was “an incredible athlete” even then.
At 13, she was the youngest ever finalist at the US Open Girls’ singles and a year later won the French Open junior title.
Tennis has known for a while that Cori had what it took to be a star of the sport but it is her run to the last 16 at Wimbledon that has made the rest of the world take notice.
Henman Hill was packed on Friday night for her third round fight back against Polona Hercog.
As one American tennis writer put it, “Cocomania” is fast catching on and she has even had a congratulatory tweet from former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Reaching the second week at Wimbledon at 15 years old is something very special.
Andy Murray reached the third round at his first Wimbledon, as did Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams.
The third round seems to be an indicator of greatness to come, although tennis legend Roger Federer fell at the first round in three out his first four Wimbledon tournaments – and we all know what happened after that.
Cori has gone one better than all of these greats of the game, although many think her match today against Simona Halep will be a step too far.
Mouratoglou has challenged this, saying: “She can play even better in competition than in training and she raises her level under pressure.
“Not everyone can do this.
“She’s saying she’s here to win the tournament and I know it sounds crazy but I like this attitude.
“It’s great and I know she believes that she can do anything, she can beat everybody.
“It’s not being cocky at all. It’s believing in yourself. To do sports at that level, you need to believe in yourself.”
And if she goes all the way to the final? He would not be a bit surprised.
Source: SKY NEWS