Cori Gauff debuts at Wimbledon by beating Venus Williams

WIMBLEDON, England — Cori Gauff, a 15-year-old American who grew up admiring the Williams sisters, made her Wimbledon debut Monday by defeating one of them.

Gauff’s 6-4, 6-4 victory over five-time singles champion Venus Williams in the first round was remarkable not just for the score line but for the manner with which Gauff managed the moment.

She was unruffled from the start in her first main-draw Grand Slam singles match, responding to the 39-year-old’s baseline power with ample power of her own and maintaining a tight grip on her service games.

“She did everything well today,” Williams said. “She put the ball in the court, which was much better than I did. She served well, moved well. It was a great match for her.”

Williams managed to break Gauff’s serve only once in the 1-hour, 19-minute match. That break made the score 4-4 in the second set, but Gauff, the youngest woman to qualify for the Wimbledon main draw in the Open era, responded by breaking Williams straight back.

She then served out the victory, closing it on her fourth match point. And after shaking Williams’ hand and exchanging words with her at the net, Gauff went to her chair, squatted down, put her head against the butt of her racket and cried.

Gauff said in a post-match interview that at the net with Williams, “I told her thank you for everything that you did. I wouldn’t be here without you. I always wanted to tell her that.”

It was a debut to remember. Gauff has long been considered one of the world’s most promising players. Coached by her father, Corey, a former basketball point guard at Georgia State University, Gauff trains regularly at Patrick Mouratoglou’s tennis academy in France.

Though it was a match between unseeded players, it was widely considered the most intriguing match of the day. Williams is ranked No. 44 and far from the peak of her powers at this stage, but she remains a dangerous player on grass, long her favorite surface.

She reached the final here most recently in 2017, but she won two of her five singles titles at the All England Club before Gauff was born. Williams and, above all, her younger sister Serena have been Gauff’s role models.

“I want to be the greatest of all time,” Gauff told ESPN at age 12.

For now, she is just beginning and will face a player with a very different skill set in the second round: Magdalena Rybarikova, a semifinalist at Wimbledon in 2017.

Briefly: Naomi Osaka became the first top player to lose at Wimbledon, falling to Yulia Putinseva 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the first round. Osaka, the second seed who won the U.S. Open last year and the Australian Open this year, was ranked No. 1 in the world until last week. Osaka’s 16-match Grand Slam winning streak has been followed by a two-match losing streak at majors, and as she haltingly discussed her early exit at Wimbledon at barely above a whisper Monday, she suddenly stopped. “Can I leave?” Osaka asked the news conference moderator. “I feel like I’m about to cry.” … French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova lost 6-4, 6-4 to Madison Brengle of the United States. … After an early wobble, defending champion Novak Djokovic got right back on track on Centre Court. Djokovic was broken in the opening game but recovered right away to beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 7-5, 6-3. … Gael Monfils had to retire with an injury during the fifth set of his first-round match against Ugo Humbert.

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