Cori "Coco" Gauff beat Polona Hercog in three sets on Friday to advance to the fourth round at Wimbledon, setting up a showdown with No. 7 Simona Halep in the round of 16.
The 15-year-old American became the youngest player to qualify for Wimbledon in the Open era last week, but on Friday she showed poise well beyond her years as she came back to beat the world No. 60 on Centre Court at the All England Club.
Hercog won the first set 6–3 and appeared to be on her way to victory after Gauff dropped serve early in the second set. But trailing 2–5, Gauff looked unflappable, holding serve before breaking Hercog and ultimately sending second set to a tiebreaker, which Gauff won 9–7. She saved two match points in the second set.
That sent the match to a decider. Gauff earned an early break in the set's fourth game, but Hercog broke back in the seventh game. Both players held serve until the 12th game of the set, with Gauff fighting off a game point and breaking Hercog to win the match.
Even before Wimbledon, Gauff looked like a future star of tennis. She won the 2018 French Open girls' singles trophy, and she closed out last year by winning the 18 and under division at the Orange Bowl, one of the most prestigious junior tennis events.
But over the past week, Gauff has shown she's already ready to compete on the highest level. She beat Venus Williams in straight sets in the opening round and eased by Magdalena Rybarikova in the second. And while her victory over Williams felt like a passing of the torch, Gauff's 3–6, 7–6(7), 7–5 win over Hercog represented her most impressive effort yet, even if she didn't play her best tennis. (She hit 24 winners and 43 unforced errors against Hercog, compared to 36 winners and 18 unforced errors over her first two matches combined.) But still, to trail by a set and a break on Centre Court, against a tricky opponent, and rally to win is nothing short of remarkable, especially for a 15-year-old.
Gauff's next opponent will be her toughest yet. Halep is a former world No. 1, and she's as capable of winning Grand Slams as any player on tour right now, even if grass isn't her strongest surface.
Meanwhile, here's what the scene looked like—captured on video by the Sun-Sentinel's Dave Hyde—at a bar owned by her father in Delray Beach, Fla., where Gauff lives, after she won the second set:
And after she won the match:
Gauff will face Halep in the fourth round on Monday, with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line.