Coco Gauff yesterday shone on her Australian Open debut as she knocked Venus Williams out of the first round in a repeat of her stunning victory over the seven-time Grand Slam champion in their Wimbledon opener last year.
The 15-year-old American sensation, 24 years Williams’ junior and the youngest player in the draw, eased to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 win in the clash of generations at Margaret Court Arena, her first main-draw appearance as a direct Grand Slam qualifier.
“I definitely was a lot more confident this time,” said Gauff, who beat Williams 6-4, 6-4 at Wimbledon as a qualifier. “I think I was used to playing on big courts, so the crowd — I guess the size of the crowd didn’t startle me as much as last time.”
Gauff was born the year after Williams lost the 2003 Australian Open final to younger sister Serena. She grew up idolizing the sisters, but Gauff is determined to plot her own path to greatness and all respect was put aside as she broke Venus in the opening game and marched to a 5-3 lead.
Venus Williams summoned all her experience to force a tiebreak.
In a point-for-point battle, the 39-year-old fought gamely, but she ended up gifting the set to her schoolgirl opponent when she struck an overhead into the net.
Gauff duly pounced, breaking Venus Williams in the second game of the second set to roar to a 3-0 lead. Gauff wrapped up the match in style with a drop-shot.
“She played well, like I said,” Venus Williams said. “She’ll play well the rest of the event. She clearly wants it, works very hard, is extremely mature for her age. I think the sky’s the limit for her.”
Gauff underlined her maturity with thoughtful, confident answers during her post-match news conference, but also gave a reminder that she is still only a teenager, admitting she spends too much time on video-sharing app TikTok.
“I procrastinate a lot on that app,” she said. “I have to do homework. I’m still procrastinating on that.”
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