Coco Gauff out of Wimbledon after Emma Navarro shock on Centre Court


WIMBLEDON — The ball whistled past Coco Gauff’s shoulder, and seconds later her hand was over her mouth.

It had come from Emma Navarro, the 23-year-old American three years removed from winning the NCAA singles title, who had just planted a forehand passing shot on to the baseline to take the first set of their fourth-round duel 6-4. About 40 minutes later, it was Navarro’s turn to gasp, as she closed out a stunning 6-4, 6-3 win to knock out the world No. 2, American No. 1, and one of the current favorites for the Wimbledon title that will be handed out on Saturday July 13.

For Gauff, the loss is a major disappointment. She cruised past her first three opponents and watched so many of the other top threats for the title fall away during the first week of the tournament, including Iga Swiatek, the world No. 1. 

After a tight first set that turned on the two last points, one of them that beautiful pass, the defending U.S. Open champion came apart in the fourth game of the second set. So confident on her serve through the first 12 games, she suddenly became tentative, hesitant; tossing the ball once then twice; double faulting and making errors off her forehand, which has long been shaky at times in tight spots.

Two games later she was openly feuding with her coach, Brad Gilbert, shaking her arms at him in exasperation and doing the universal sign for either “you are talking too much” or “please be quiet.” It wasn’t clear which she needed at that moment, as her dream of another Grand Slam final which for the first week at the All England Club had been looking so achievable, began to slip away.

Navarro, who shows little emotion regardless of the numbers on the scoreboard, kept her cool and stayed steady. When she is on, the 2021 NCAA champion and No. 19 seed here plays a rock-solid, aggressive game from the baseline, and gives her opponents little for free. And was she ever on Sunday evening. She used her backhand slice into Gauff’s forehand corner to neutralising effect, denying her pace to redirect and forcing her to take the initiative on a shot that isn’t always her best friend.

Gauff was the only player to make it to at least the semifinals of the last three Grand Slams. She appeared likely to repeat that at Wimbledon, especially with a favorable draw in the early rounds that saw her face two opponents ranked far outside the top 100.  

Then came Navarro, who played one of the best matches of her career — or at least the best since she knocked out four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka in the second round. She shook briefly on her first match point, sending a forehand long, but earned another one with a twisting serve that induced an error from Gauff. 

Another forehand error from Gauff earned Navarro a third match point. Another sealed it.

Navarro’s work was done. She said she “didn’t have a ton of words” after the match, and credited her aggression in that match, which she said she needed to have a chance of tempering her opponent’s game.

She will play Italian No. 7 seed Jasmine Paolini — “not an easy out,” Navarro said.

The No. 2 seed isn’t much of an easy out either.

 

(Henry Nicholls / AFP via Getty Images)

 



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