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Ed Curran: Federer has provided a path for Gauff to follow while Kyrgios proves his box office credentials once again

Peerless: Roger Federer built on his success as a youngster
Peerless: Roger Federer built on his success as a youngster

By Ed Curran

The new teenage sensation of Wimbledon was well out of view yesterday.

Fifteen-year-old Cori Gauff, or Coco as she prefers to be known, was hidden in the farthest corner of the Wimbledon complex on the practice courts, preparing for her next Grand Slam encounter today.

Yesterday she remained the talk of the tennis in-crowd and the international media covering Wimbledon, who were impressed not just by her two set victory over Venus Williams, but by the composure she has shown both on and off the court.

Playing as she did on Wimbledon's No.1 Court before a raucous crowd and against such an iconic star as Venus Williams, Gauff displayed a maturity far beyond her age.

The fact that she reached the final of the US Junior Open at the age of 13 and won the French Junior Open at 14, and is coached in the same academy as Serena Williams, underlines her potential.

Although she has only won one round at Wimbledon, she is already reputed to have signed a number of lucrative sponsorship deals, as the tennis world sees her as a huge money-spinner for the future of the WTA tour.

But anyone who takes a closer look at how previous Wimbledon junior champions have fared since their triumphs at Centre Court will see that success as a teenager does not necessarily lead to an illustrious career on the senior tour.

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Roger Federer, who was out on that court yesterday afternoon, comfortably sweeping aside South African Lloyd Harris in the first round, is one who did progress on from winning junior Wimbledon 21 years ago.

However, for the relative few who went on win Grand Slams, many more dropped from the tennis headlines and were not heard of again after their teenage years.

Federer was asked about Coco when interviewed after his match. Immaculate as ever, in his white Uniqlo track suit and gold Rolex on his wrist, he said he had met her in Australia and offered her a few words of advice.

He described her as "very cool, very cute" and complemented her ability to perform so well against an opponent 24 years her senior and on such a big stage at Wimbledon.

Federer lost the first set to Harris, which he put down to his legs taking time to get going. Once they did though, he looked far from the man of 37 years and 340 days that he was yesterday.

He also admitted his surprise that so many of the younger players who might challenge him had fallen already in the first round.

One who didn't fall was the undisputed bad boy of world tennis - Australian Nick Kyrgios - who defeated fellow countryman Jordan Thompson on Court Three.

There cannot be anyone at Wimbledon more infuriating to play against than Kyrgios, and yesterday he produced his full repertoire in an extraordinary five set match that only he could have orchestrated.

At times it looked as if he couldn't care less whether he won or lost. He talked incessantly to himself, to the crowd and even the ball boys. He slouched around the court as if he could barely put one tennis shoe in front of the other. He played the most amazing array of shots, ranging from the ridiculous half-hearted swing of his racket, to booming serves, to sheer brilliance in his ground-strokes.

He laughed at his missed shots, chewed his towel when changing ends, grunted loudly as if he was running out of steam, and even flung himself several times on the ground, as if to say he couldn't take any more. Two sets to one up, he proceeded to lose the next six love, barely trying to return some of his opponent's shots and serves. Then, as if to signal he was only kidding, he stormed through the final set 6-1, firing 136mph serves and magnificent forehands.

As he walked off and away from Court Three, he was surrounded by fans seeking selfies and autographs, proof that no matter his unruly reputation, he is box-office material.

His next match tomorrow is against Rafa Nadal, who won in three straight sets yesterday. That promises to be a fiery encounter with the potential to explode depending on the mood of Kyrgios.

As for young Coco Gauff, she is also attracting the crowds. She has lit up Wimbledon already and, irrespective of whether she wins this week or next, seems destined to light up the tennis world even more in the years ahead.

Belfast Telegraph


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