Coco Gauff vs Venus Williams, Wimbledon 2019 recalled: The Greatest Championships first round

Molly McElwee
The Telegraph
Venus Williams and Coco Gauff played a classic first round tie in 2019 - AP
Venus Williams and Coco Gauff played a classic first round tie in 2019 - AP

03:43 PM

A memorable match

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"This is the first time I've ever cried after a match, after winning of course. I've cried after losing," Gauff laughs in her post-match interview - her first interview of many to come in 2019 - and she is humble and seemingly as composed as she was on the court. But after thanking Williams, thanking her parents for helping her be successful and saying that she is living her  dream, the slow-mo shots of that moment of victory start playing and the importance of the moment becomes all the more visible. 

Her father Corey throws his cap in the air, her mother Candi drops her phone from the shock, and Coco takes a moment to lean on her racket and take in the Court One crowd's cheering.

As she approaches the net to speak to the player that inspired her to take up the sport in the first place she is a nervous teenager for the first time on that court. She is blurting out the words she has wanted to say to Williams since she first watched her aged eight at the US Open: "I told her I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her, she is so inspiring and I always wanted to tell her that, even though I met her before I didn't have the guts to tell her then."

After this win came three more rounds of tennis where she captivated the crowds at SW19, as well as an entire season where she proved time and again it was no fluke. Magazine covers, lucrative sponsorship and worldwide recognition would follow from this match, and a career full of promise lies ahead of her.

It is why Wimbledon chose this match as one of the best first round ties from their archives, more of which they will be showing for the next fortnight as we grapple with a summer without the tournament for the first time in decades.

Look out for the next installments of liveblogs and interviews we have planned at Telegraph Sport, as we follow the new-look coverage. 

03:27 PM

Gauff wins! Second set: Williams 4 - 6 Gauff

Gauff is serving well, and she sets herself up for two match points. Gauff thinks Williams' forehand has gone wide and she challenges the 'in' call. She's wrong, and she serves again. But Williams isn't done. She hits another winner, this time on her backhand to salvage the game and go deuce. 

A couple of points later Gauff is at advantage with her third match point. But Williams' backhand sends her sliding in a wide lunge and unable to reach the ball. 

Another few points - where Williams gains and loses advantage - and Gauff is on her fourth match point. This is the one. Williams hits her shot into the net and Gauff's hands are on her head, her face a picture of disbelief. Her parents are jumping up and down. 

She rushes to the net to thank Williams, her idol and "inspiration" and Williams can do nothing but smile and her young opponent. One of the biggest upsets in the Championships' history. 

03:18 PM

Second set: Williams* 4 - 5 Gauff

This is the game of the match.

Massive hitting from both players in a long rally to start the game, and Gauff sends a forehand blasting cross court, stopping Williams in her tracks. A fist pump from the teen.

Next though she is the one sent back on her backside, as Williams' heavy hitting sees her lose her balance. Williams wins the next point but then is shocked that she sends a forehand long. More back and forths on the next couple of points and they get to deuce. 

Another long rally of baseline hitting on a crucial point - and Williams the victor but only by the grace of the net tape which her shot snags, helping the ball over. 

Advantage Williams. Gauff mishits her return and the ball bounces into the corner of the court, just within hte line and out of reach of Williams who smiles at her  own misfortune. 

Then this happens: 

Gauff has break point and she takes it - she hits a shot at Williams who has approached the net and the former champion sends it long. Gauff with a double fist pump - she will serve for the match. 

03:08 PM

Second set: Williams 4 - 4 Gauff*

Williams has two break points - finally. She wastes the first with a long forehand. But a double fault from Gauff gifts Williams the break-back and they are back to level in this second set. Williams buys herself some time and a test now of the confidence of this young player. 

03:06 PM

Second set: Williams* 3 - 4 Gauff

That was short and snappy. Williams holds to love, including a second-serve ace to secure it. She is not going down without a fight. 

It is bizarre now listening to the commentary (referencing Coco as Cori for one) as they debate the value of limitations on how many tournaments young players like her can play a year. It is a debate that has ensued since she played Wimbledon, but in just her first two sets at a Grand Slam her potential impact was already clear. 

03:02 PM

Second set: Williams 2 - 4 Gauff*

Gauff is coming into her own, jumping on a short return from Williams and batting it away leaving her opponent with little option than to just watch. Gauff's reactions are quick and her confidence is growing.

Williams hits her shot into the net, and Gauff blows out her cheeks and lets out a big sigh. It is the only sign of how surreal a position she was in. 

She is just two games from beating Venus Williams. 

02:56 PM

Second set: Williams 2 - 3 Gauff*

Williams is throwing everything she has at Gauff. The hardest hit shots she can muster, to each corner of the baseline. But Gauff has an answer for everyone, and she goews 0-30 up. Next Williams double faults and Gauff has three break point opportunities. 

A second double fault hands the 15-year-old a set and a break lead as they go into the changeover. Not an hour yet played, but this is already feeling like the seismic moment of the match.

02:53 PM

Second set: Williams 2 - 2 Gauff*

Gauff is just producing some stellar winners from the baseline, flat and powerful and choosing her moment. Her serving is also back on form, and Williams mishits her return to grant Gauff the game. 

02:51 PM

Second set: Williams* 2 - 1 Gauff

Williams is being forced to bring some excellent ball-striking to get a hold of things with Gauff. Where one or two shots would usually do, it's taking three or four baseline hits to get Gauff out of her hair. 

She holds her serve though, and things remain on serve so far this set.

02:47 PM

Second set: Williams 1 - 1 Gauff*

Gauff goes 40-0 up, but another net approach from Williams proves worthwhile, as she tries to claw back. 

A double fault from Gauff shows a little weakness next. Then she double faults again immediately after to go to deuce, and the crowd give her a cheer of encouragement. But she recovers like a champ, that wobble forgotten as she blasts some heavy hitting at Williams, who makes two errors and Gauff holds.

02:42 PM

Second set: Williams* 1 - 0 Gauff

Williams recorded 13 unforced errors last set to Gauff's 2. This first game of the second set she keeps it simple and tucks it away quickly. An important hold to help stop the momentum a little bit. 

02:40 PM

Gauff takes the first set! 

Williams starts the game with a passing shot winner, to get a leg up on Gauff. 

But that's as much control as she can muster this game. Gauff wins the next point and then plays the longest rally at 15 shots, the teen charging to the net - not an ounce of fear in her body and swipes her volley cross-court. She shouts 'Come on!' looking up at her box as she wins the point.

She follows it up with a 115kph ace to set up set point - and there's no nerves. Williams hits her forehand into the net and goes down a set to the 15-year-old. The Court One fans have a match on their hands. 

02:34 PM

Williams* 4 - 5 Gauff

Perhaps galvanised by being pushed around a little in the last game, Williams is serving close to 120kph. She is back looking serene and holds the game, not letting Gauff get a look in. Now the pressure is on the teenager to serve out the set. 

02:31 PM

Williams 3 - 5 Gauff*

Gauff is putting points away quickly. A fifth baseline winner stopping Williams in her tracks. 

Next she pushes Williams chasing a ball to the tramlines, and the champion falls back on her buttocks. Williams gets back up though and chases down the next ball, but Gauff wins the point. Big cheers for the effort though. The crowd are entertained. 

Gauff keeps her composure and holds her serve. Williams must serve to remain in the first set now. 

02:27 PM

Williams* 3 - 4 Gauff

Another error from Williams clatters the net and she looks exasperated. 

Gauff holds her nerve as the looming figure of the five-time champion rushes to the net, and she forces another error. Williams grits her teeth as she walks back to the service line, inhales deeply. 

30-all, this is a crucial point, and Gauff's backhand finds the net this time, giving Williams room to breath and she salvages the game. Gauff is playing a lot better though. 

02:23 PM

Williams 2 - 4 Gauff*

Gauff goes 4-2 up in the first set by holding serve to love, securing the game by switching the pace and delivering a clever drop shot - cool as you like. Williams looks vaguely impressed but her poker face is not letting up just yet. 

02:21 PM

Williams* 2 - 3 Gauff

First big point of the match. Venus drop shots Gauff, and the teen chases the ball down, and expertly lobs Williams. It gets a huge cheer, and her dad Corey is out of his seat applauding.

She takes a 30-0 lead on Williams, but the experienced champion wins back to points. 

She clatters the net later though and gives Gauff a break point. Gauff's chasing pays off, a backhand landing right on the line and Williams hitting wide. The teenager is the first to break her idol's serve and she allows herself the first fist pump of many. 

02:16 PM

Williams 2 - 2 Gauff*

Again very little to report except the teenager playing it very cool. Gauff with a cross court backhand winner to take the game. 

02:13 PM

Williams* 2 - 1 Gauff

No major surprises, or breaks in serve yet. Williams holds her serve, no issues. They have their first changeover, and Gauff looks cool and calm sat drinking her water despite the occasion. 

02:09 PM

Williams 1 - 1 Gauff*

A confident first service game from Gauff. Holds to 15, and the first mention of their similar styles, the influence Williams has had on the teenagers' game comes from the commentators. 

02:07 PM

Williams* 1 - 0 Gauff

Williams comes up to the net in the first game, a cross court volley putting her stamp on the match early. A strong serve secures the game.

But the commentators cannot stop talking about Gauff already. Parents Candi and Corey are looking nervy from the player box. 

02:03 PM

Here we go!

The stream is live. Williams to serve first.

02:03 PM

Venus - one of Wimbledon's greatest champions

This match turned out to be a loss for Williams, but one cannot forget the five-time champion's impressive record at the Championships: 89 wins/17 losses, nine finals. And still going. 

01:58 PM

Tennis prodigy, activist and... just your average teen? 

Gauff spoke to Sue Barker and the BBC about the struggles of learning to drive, and park in particular: "Once I learn how to park, everything will be perfect." No truer words were ever spoken.

(The small matter of meeting Michelle Obama and getting her driving permit late because she was busy getting to the fourth round at Wimbledon was slightly less relatable, mind. )

01:42 PM

Coco Gauff is not just a tennis phenom

A reminder that she has taken on the role of activist in the last few weeks, since the death of unarmed black man George Floyd, who was in police custody in Minneapolis.

At only 16 she is taking it upon herself to use her well-earned platform, which has grown to over 200,000 followers on Twitter and 600,000 on Instagram, to continue the conversation around racial injustice. 

The teen has encouraged the likes of Roger Federer to take action, and at the weekend reminded her followers of where their priorities should lie right now: 

Our tennis correspondent Simon Briggs wrote on subject earlier this month.

01:25 PM

Just a taster

The kind of rallies we can look forward to starting at 3pm:

01:17 PM

Meanwhile Heather Watson...

.. was last week getting her fix of the grounds at the very least. 

01:15 PM

We all miss Wimbledon

There are a lot of gaps in the sporting calendar that have hurt this year, but few leave a hole like Wimbledon does. Luckily, it's not just the fans. 

2011 and 2014 champion Petra Kvitova is one sorely missing the action: 

 The Duchess of Cambridge another, with some rousing words to keep us going for the 365 day-wait: 

01:02 PM

Hello...

... and welcome to the first of Telegraph Women's Sport's look back at some of our favourite Wimbledon matches. In lieu of actual live action in 2020 due to coronavirus, the tournament organisers have put together their pick of the 'Greatest Championships' - a round-by-round collection of the best ties the All England Club greens have ever seen, streamed daily and in full on their social channels. 

Today, on the day that should have been Day One of the fortnight, we start with what was an instant classic first round match-up: Cori 'Coco' Gauff v Venus Williams. Just over a year ago, on the first day of Wimbledon 2019, tennis fans got their introduction to the 15-year-old who would soon be known simply by her preferred nickname of Coco.

I remember that morning at SW19, the press room was abuzz with chatter of the American prodigy and the possibility of a huge upset scheduled later that day on Court One. But everyone recognised this was a story regardless of the result. The oldest female player in the draw (Williams was 39 last year), versus the youngest to qualify in years. A five-time champion against a debutant. One of the sport's greatest players set to compete against a girl being dubbed by tennis aficionados as her and sister Serena's successor.

And then Gauff delivered a win that led her to emerge as the story of the summer (though this is a 'live' blog, I am going to safely assume we all know how this one ends). The teenager dismantled Williams' game, on one of the show courts at the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world. Her self-belief was startling, as was her humility in taking down the woman she described as her biggest inspiration.

"I told her thank you for everything," Gauff said afterwards of her handshake with Williams at the net. "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her, she is so inspiring and I always wanted to tell her that, even though I met her before I didn't have the guts to tell her then."

It was the beginning of a momentous 2019 for the youngster, who went on to become the youngest winner of a WTA title since 2004 at Linz, as well as have a memorable run to the third round at the US Open and last-16 finish at the Australian Open this January.

In the months since Covid-19 halted her and the rest of her sport's progression, she has also emerged as an outspoken voice in the Black Lives Matter movement, making speeches highlighting racial injustice and educating fellow professionals on how best to serve as an ally.

It has been a whirlwind 12 months, so here we will take fans back to Gauff's first step into the spotlight, reliving every point, every jubilant fist pump, parents Candi and Corey's celebrations, Williams' grace in defeat and a crowd's first meeting with the girl whose name they would spend chanting during a memorable fortnight.

Wimbledon's livestream begins on their YouTube channel and Twitter at 3pm.

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