U.S. teen stuns Venus; Osaka also ex­its in 1st

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Nate Wil­liams

LON­DON — Amer­i­can 15-yearold Cori Gauff made a big state­ment of in­tent for her tal­ent fol­low­ing a 6-4, 6-4 first round win at Wim­ble­don over seven-time Grand Slam cham­pion Venus Wil­liams in Lon­don on Mon­day.

Gauff be­came the youngest ever fe­male qual­i­fier at Wim­ble­don this year, while Wil­liams was the old­est player in the draw at 39 years old.

“I lit­er­ally got my dream draw,” said Gauff after ad­mit­ting Wil­liams was one of her idols. “I’m just su­per happy I was able to pull it out to­day. I never ex­pected this to hap­pen.”

Wil­liams won four of her seven ma­jors be­fore Gauff was born in 2004, and the 24-year age gap be­tween them is the big­gest since a 43-year-old Kimiko Date lost to Belinda Ben­cic, aged 16, at the 2014 Aus­tralian Open.

“She did ev­ery­thing well to­day,” Wil­liams said in com­pli­ment to Gauff. “I think the sky’s the limit for her, it really is.”

The At­lanta-based teen Gauff se­cured the first break for a 4-2 head start and ral­lied to the first set in 32 min­utes after Wil­liams dumped a re­turn into the net.

In the sec­ond set, both play­ers faulted be­hind their serves to trade breaks and re­main even at 44.

Gauff roared after she stretched for a win­ner at the net and watched the re­turn from Wil­liams sail long to of­fer her an op­por­tu­nity to serve for the match at 5-4.

“I knew it was go­ing to be mine,” said Gauff. “I was not

think­ing about Venus. I was just play­ing my game. No mat­ter who I play against, I want to win.”

Three match points went by be­fore Gauff sunk to her knees when Wil­liams wilted with an­other failed re­turn.

After the waves of cour­tesy and thank you’s to the Court One crowd, Gauff knelt by her court­side chair and prayed.

“Be­fore ev­ery match, since I was eight, my dad and I say a prayer to­gether,” added Gauff. “I was just thank­ing God for this op­por­tu­nity.”

Gauff will next meet Slo­vakia’s Mag­dalena Ry­barikova after she knocked out 10th seed Aryna Sa­balenka with a 6-2, 6-4 vic­tory.

There was an­other shock on day one in the women’s draw as Aus­tralian and U.S. Open cham­pion Naomi Osaka was stunned 7-6 (74), 6-2 by Kaza­khs­tan’s Yu­lia Putint­seva.

On the men’s side, de­fend­ing Wim­ble­don cham­pion No­vak Djokovic sur­vived some early chal­lenges be­fore pre­vail­ing against Ger­many’s Philipp Kohlschrei­ber with a 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 vic­tory in the open­ing de­fense of his ti­tle on Mon­day.

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