US teen does not disappoint as 'Coco mania' returns to Centre Court

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·3 min read
Coco Gauff made a winning return to Centre Court at Wimbledon two years after as a 15-year-old she sparked 'Coco Mania' reaching the Last 16 as a qualifier
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Coco Gauff made a winning return to the stage where she won hearts and minds as a 15-year-old in 2019 beating veteran Russian Elena Vesnina 6-4, 6-3 on Centre Court at Wimbledon on Thursday to reach the third round.

The 17-year-old American produced an assured performance against a former Wimbledon semi-finalist who only returned to the circuit recently after a three year hiatus due to maternity leave.

Gauff's mix of childlike innocence and a surprising self-awareness for a 15-year-old has given way to maturity in how she views her prospects.

Reflecting this Gauff said she had belief at what she could achieve at Wimbledon preferring that to what her "expectations" were.

"I would say I have more of a belief," she said.

"I don't really like the word 'expectations', I don't like that word. I think I use more the other word 'belief.' I believe that I can win.

"I think I believed that back in 2019, and I believe that now. I don't think anything has changed."

Gauff is seeded 20 unlike two years ago when she arrived as a qualifier and reached the last 16 beating along the way five-time champion Venus Williams.

Her exploits sparked 'Coco Mania' as she received messages of congratulations from far and wide including from America's former First Lady Michelle Obama.

Gauff has two singles titles to her credit and achieved her best result so far at a Grand Slam in reaching the French Open quarter-finals last month.

"What I will say is that goal I guess is more clear right now than it was in 2019," she said.

"I think just my belief is a lot stronger now, the feeling that I can go far.

"But, yeah, I don't really like the word 'expectations' because at the end of the day you can't control how you play all the time."

- 'Have other interests' -

Huge roars erupted as Gauff sealed her place in the last 32 and her trademark broad grin spread across her face watched from the players box by dad Corey and mum Candy.

She said, though, there had been a marked difference in how she felt before her match on Centre Court on Thursday and her debut on it in 2019.

"It did feel a lot different," she said.

"I honestly was more nervous today coming into today's match.

"I think the biggest thing is I don't really remember much from my Centre Court experience in 2019.

"I don't know, I felt like it was all a blur.

"But going in today I feel like a completely different player and person."

She confessed that nerves hit her when she emerged from the women's locker room.

"To be honest, I wasn't nervous till we started walking to the court," she said.

"It's a pretty, like, nice walk. They have the little guards out around. They have a lot of artwork.

"It's very, I don't know, like you're walking through a museum."

Gauff may be two years older but the social media fan has not disappeared despite being more battle-hardened.

"TikTok I'm active on a lot," she said.

"Actually, I really don't post a lot of tennis-related stuff on TikTok.

"I would say a good 30% or maybe even 40% of people who follow me on TikTok don't even know I play tennis.

"I'm not only a tennis player, I have other interests in other things.

"Social media, for me it's always been a good thing.

"You always get, like, hate comments here and there, but it's always been a good thing to be an outlet to try to show other sides of me."

pi/dj