Wimbledon hailed a new queen on Monday when 15-year-old Cori Gauff stunned five-time champion Venus Williams as opening day at the All England Club witnessed shock defeats for title hopefuls Naomi Osaka, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Gauff, already in the record books as the youngest player ever to qualify for the tournament, showed nerves of steel after squandering three match points in a tense conclusion on Court One before securing a 6-4, 6-4 win.
She made just eight unforced errors while 39-year-old Venus committed 25 as the veteran American suffered only her second first-round loss at Wimbledon – the first was in 1997.
Williams had already won two of her five Wimbledon titles by the time Gauff was born in 2004, but the teenager was unfazed.
“It’s the first time I have ever cried after winning a match,” said 313-ranked Gauff who took up the sport after being inspired by Venus and Serena Williams.
“At the net, Venus told me congratulations and keep going, she said good luck and I told her thanks for everything she did.”
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her – I told her she was so inspiring. I’ve always wanted to tell her that but I’ve never had the guts.”
On a day of seismic shocks, Japanese superstar Osaka slumped to a 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 defeat to 39th-ranked Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan who had defeated the world number two on grass in Birmingham two weeks ago.
US Open and Australian Open winner Osaka is the first top-two seed to lose in the first round since Martina Hingis in 2001.
“Can we stop now? I think I am going to cry,” she told reporters as she made a quick exit from her post-match news conference.
Osaka has yet to make a final since her Australian Open win in January.
“There are answers to questions that you guys ask that I still haven’t figured out yet,” she admitted.
German sixth seed Zverev, 22, lost 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 to Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely, the world number 124.
“Everything outside the court affects you, I won’t get into details now, but the last couple of days have been very rough for me,” said Zverev who has never got beyond the last 16.
Just 15 minutes after Zverev’s defeat, 20-year-old Tsitsipas lost 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (8/10), 6-3 to world number 89 Thomas Fabbiano of Italy.
Tsitsipas had reached the semifinals of the Australian Open in January and the last-16 at Roland Garros as well as the fourth round at Wimbledon last year.
‘I FEEL DEVASTATED’
“If I won today I would not have deserved it. It should have been over in three sets,” said Tsitsipas.
“I feel devastated.”
At least, Canadian 18-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime kept ‘NextGen’ hopes alive by beating Canadian compatriot Vasek Pospisil 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3.
Victory made the 19th seed the first player born in the 2000s to win a match at Wimbledon.
It was the Canadian’s first ever match win at a Slam and he shrugged off being named the sixth favourite by one bookmaker to win the title this year.
“Calm down, I am only 18 so I think that was a bit exaggerated,” he said.
“Sometimes I can understand the excitement, it would be a nice story, a cool story.”
Defending champion Novak Djokovic got his campaign for a fifth Wimbledon title off to a winning start with newly-hired coaching team recruit, and 2001 winner, Goran Ivanisevic helping steer the ship.
Djokovic, chasing a fifth title at the All England Club, saw off 35-year-old Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.
If his victory was routine, there was nothing predictable about Djokovic’s decision to bring Ivanisevic into his inner sanctum over the weekend.
“I have always looked up to Goran. When he won here in 2001, I feel I was part of that as he had trained in Germany at the same base as me when I was 13-14,” said Djokovic.
“I feel as if I contributed to his victory,” joked Djokovic who next faces Denis Kudla of the United States.
Fourth seed Kevin Anderson, runner-up to Djokovic in 2018, eased into the second round beating Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
Anderson will now play Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic who registered his first win at the tournament in seven years when he defeated Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 6-4, 6-7 (2/7), 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.
Koketso Ramorei is a journalist and news editor of SADC News with years of experience in a number of genres including sports, politics and community reporting. He has worked for a numerous publications including The Citizen Newspaper and is a former editor of a Johannesburg-based off-campus publication called The Waldorfian Times.