Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 October 2019

Cori Gauff steals spotlight as Big Three pass early tests: Wimbledon talking points from Week 1

Ahead of the start of the second week, Jon Turner offers his thoughts on the biggest storylines from the All England Club

Cori Gauff has enjoyed a historic debut at Wimbledon and will face Simona Halep in the fourth round. Reuters
Cori Gauff has enjoyed a historic debut at Wimbledon and will face Simona Halep in the fourth round. Reuters

Teenage sensation steals the spotlight

For all the superstars on show during the first week at Wimbledon, it was a 15-year-old who created many of the headlines. Cori Gauff's remarkable debut has captured the imagination of tennis fans around the world, including plenty of famous faces - from Reese Witherspoon and Jaden Smith, to Snoop Dogg and Michelle Obama.

Gauff's presence in the first round was a big enough story in itself when she became the youngest player to reach Wimbledon's main draw through qualifying.

That was just the start, though, as the American teenager produced a faultless display to defeat five-time champion Venus Williams. Facing another tough task in the second round against former semi-finalist Magdalena Rybarikova, Gauff was again a class above.

Then came a third round match that will go down in Wimbledon folklore. Trailing 6-3, 5-3 to Polona Hercog, Gauff fended off two match points before staging a dramatic recovery to win 3-6, 7-6, 7-5.

The dream continues against former world No 1 Simona Halep in the fourth round on Monday. Even if this proves to be the end of the road for Gauff, she has ensured that Wimbledon 2019 will forever be remembered for her exploits. And for when a future star was born.

Williams looking ominous

For most players entering Wimbledon with just 12 completed matches in 2019 under their belt, even the suggestion of a title challenge would be laughable. Serena Williams, of course, is not most players.

The seven-time Wimbledon champion remains in the hunt for a record-equalling 24th grand slam singles title, and at this stage, she looks to have every chance of reaching the milestone.

Williams, 37, has improved with each passing round and her most recent win over the big-serving Julia Goerges - in a rematch of last year's semi-final - showed a player making major strides toward title-winning form.

The American is next up against Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro, whom she has beaten in straight sets in each of their six previous meetings. Get through that and a likely showdown with world No 1 Ashleigh Barty awaits. There would be few surprises if the winner of that proposed quarter-final goes on to lift the trophy.

Barty goes under the radar

With so much attention on Gauff and Williams, the progress of the women's top seed, world No 1 and tournament favourite has been largely ignored. Given the form of Barty, during and before Wimbledon, it would be wise not to ignore the Australian.

Barty is on a 15-match winning run - a streak that has included her first grand slam title at the French Open, the Eastbourne International trophy, and a rise to the top of the rankings.

At Wimbledon, Barty has continued to impress after reeling off a succession of comfortable victories to reach the fourth round. She should extend her run to 16 victories when she next faces Alison Riske, then it's a likely match with Williams. That will be a showdown not to be missed.

Kyrgios continues to divide

Say what you like about Nick Kyrgios, but a tournament is never boring when he is around. After inexplicably needing five sets to defeat fellow Australian Jordan Thompson in the first round, Kyrgios ensured tennis fans got the match-up they wanted when he faced Rafael Nadal.

It was a match that lived up to expectations: high-quality, high-octane, and highly intense, Kyrgios went toe-to-toe with Nadal who needed to be at his very best to edge a tight contest.

But this being Kyrgios, it was never going to be straightforward. There was prolonged bickering with the umpire, a ball hit - intentionally as it transpired - directly at Nadal and, of course, an underarm ace that had Centre Court going wild. That's not to forget some mind-blowing shot making.

Off the court, Kyrgios' news conferences have been more entertaining than some of the matches, with the Australian going from amusing and engaging to sullen and sulky.

Kyrgios is always going to divide opinions, but in a sport of too few characters, his presence should be appreciated.

Big Three pass early tests

As the second week of Wimbledon begins, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are all, unsurprisingly, still in contention. Each of the so-called 'Big Three' have faced challenges at the All England Club but have come through unscathed.

Top seed Djokovic dropped a set for the first time in the third round against Hubert Hurkacz, but responded to thrash the Polish player; Nadal had to navigate his way past the fiery but talented Kyrgios, while Federer lost his first set of the tournament to Lloyd Harris before dismantling the South African.

All three players have relatively straightforward fourth round assignments, so should be reaching the quarter-finals with few problems. At that stage, only five other players will remain in the hunt for the Wimbledon title, so it is looking increasingly likely that once again a member of the Big Three will be crowned champion.

Although, did anyone expect anything else?

Updated: July 7, 2019 04:05 PM

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