Coco Gauff rallies past Polona Hercog to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon. Here's what else happened during Day 5 at the All England Club.
WIMBLEDON, England — Here are five thoughts from Day 5 at Wimbledon:
• And she fights, too! Just as tennis was about to consign 15-year-old Coco Gauff to “Pleasant Week 1 story,” she authored still another chapter. Down match points on Centre Court and finding few answers for a veteran opponent, Polona Hercog, Gauff decided she wasn’t quite through with her excellent Wimbledon adventure. She calmly took the second set in a tiebreaker. Then, in the second-longest match of the tournament she played downright veteran tennis, changing pace, locomoting around the grass and, above all, holding her nerve. And she prevailed 3-6, 7-6, 7-5. She started the tournament ranked No. 313. if she doesn’t beat Simona Halep on Monday she leaves at No. 139. The future isn’t bright; it’s blinding.
• Looking like a middle-aged man in comparison to Gauff, Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime was less impressive. Sluggish and perhaps physically compromised, FA-A was grounded and struggled mightily in a loss to Ugo Humbert of France, who just turned 21 last week. All of this is good news for defending champ Novak Djokovic, who won in four sets against Hubert Hukacz and whose side of the draw has yawned open.
• Strange times for Victoria Azarenka. The former No. 1 has become a wise woman of the WTA, most recently an outspoken advocate for paid maternity leave. She has emerged as a fine doubles player, paired with Ash Barty, the hottest figure in the sport. But, since Azarenka has returned from childbirth, her singles comeback remains a work in progress, if not regress. She’s had some bad luck from the draw gods, facing Serena Williams in the first round of Indian Wells—in one of the better matches of 2019—and then No. 1 ranked Naomi Osaka in the second round of the French Open. Here, she drew Simona Halep in round three. After leading 3-1, she lost 11 of the last 12 games and fell 6-3, 6-1.
• For decades there’s been an abiding fear that featureless servebots—giant men armed only with height and 140 mph serves—will come to dominate the tennis planet. That hasn’t happened. And there’s little indication it will. It’s been a rough tournament for the tennis behemoths. Ivo Karlovic, Sascha Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Kevin Anderson, John Isner and Reilly Opelka make a mean basketball team. But none are alive here. Opelka, the tallest player in history, was the last to go down falling to Milos Raonic today, broken in five of is last seven serving games. Yes, Raonic is 6'5". But the point stands: so long as tennis requires movement and grass requires hitting the ball low to the court, the advantage of height is undercut. Note that one man seeded four through 10 remains: Kei Nishikori, the smallest man in the top 10.
• The grounds were still abuzz with talk of Rafael Nadal, Nick Kyrgios and their Thursday grudge match. We have devoted plenty of ink and air and pixels to Kyrgios. How about a nod to Nadal? It’s not often that he has friction with an opponent. (Sidebar: someone asked if they could ever recall Nadal before out in this position. Robin Soderling, a decade ago, was the best we could come up with.) In a new position and faced with a new range of emotions, Nadal revealed a great deal about himself Thursday. He played terrific tennis overall, striking first against Kyrgios, taking advantage of the lapses and keeping focused when, inevitably, the circus started. Nadal waited until the end to celebrate—then he did with the force of a Major champion. And without getting in the gutter, Nadal made it clear that he didn’t have time for Kyrgios or his antics. Handled with a sort of forceful elegance on every front. And now he is well-positioned.