Aged only 15, Cori Gauff has reached the main draw at Wimbledon for the very first time, and in doing so she has become the youngest ever qualifier for the event. She has been drawn against a woman 24 years her senior in Venus Williams in what promises to be a huge tie.
Born on March 13, 2004, Guaff beat 21-year-old Belgian Greet Minnen 6-1, 6-1 to secure her place in the main draw, which takes place today.
The American starlet was invited to the qualifiers as a wildcard last week but won all three of her qualifying games with relative ease to book her place in the main competition. The night before her final qualifier against Minnen, she remotely sat a science exam at 11pm for her school back in Florida - not the best preparation for one of the biggest tennis matches of her life.
That clearly didn’t affect her as she blitzed through in under an hour, winning in straight sets as she has done in each of her qualifiers. Although she is the youngest female to make it through the qualifying rounds, eleven younger players have played at the tournament, thanks to wildcard slots that are handed out.
The last 15-year-old to compete was England’s Laura Robson, who having won Junior Wimbledon in 2008, received a place in the main draw for the following year. Gauff has played at SW19 before, as recently as last year, when she was defeated in the quarter-finals of the aforementioned women’s junior tournament.
Perhaps Robson serves as a warning for Guaff, as despite all of her potential and hype, she has failed to make a serious impact in a Grand Slam event, with her best performance coming as she reached the fourth round on home soil in 2013. She is currently ranked as the 254th best player in the world and Gauff, who has already been touted as the ‘next Serena Williams’ must keep her head down to fulfil her massive potential.
Martina Hingis is perhaps a better example of a young tennis superstar who went on to fulfil her potential. She won three of the four majors and almost completed the Golden Slam in 1997, when only a defeat in the French Open final stopped her from completing the quadruple.
She started young, winning the women’s doubles title at the age of 15 with Helena Sukova, before becoming World Number one at the age of 16. She became the youngest singles Grand Slam winner of the 20th century when she won the Australian Open and followed it up with a win at Wimbledon.
It may be an impossible dream, stuff of pure fantasy, but if Guaff was to win the whole thing this year she would become the youngest ever singles winner of the competition. That record is currently held by Charlotte ‘Lottie’ Dod, who at the tender age of 15 years and 285 days, won the women’s singles event in 1887.
However, given only four ladies entered the tournament that year, Dod, who went on to win five individual titles, only had to win two matches to be crowned champion. Guaff has already played three just to reach round one! Hingis, who won in ‘97 at 16, is the youngest winner of the competition in its modern format.
Guaff’s performances at this tournament are certainly worth keeping an eye on and Venus Williams will provide a massive test in the first round. Can she replicate the great Martina Hingis?