Cori Gauff overcame a 24-year age gap to stun Venus Williams on her Wimbledon debut.
The 15-year-old American is the youngest woman to qualify for the tournament in the Open era but she played like a veteran in a superb 6-4, 6-4 victory.
Gauff served superbly, being broken only once, and showed tremendous composure in her first main draw match at a grand slam, making just eight unforced errors compared to 25 for her 39-year-old opponent.
Williams won two of her five Wimbledon singles titles before Gauff was born and this was only the second time she has been beaten in the first round since her debut in 1997.
While Williams has been setting records at one end of the age scale, Gauff has been breaking them at the other, reaching her first junior slam final at the US Open aged just 13.
She won the French Open title last year and, on this evidence, she is more than ready to make a big impression in the senior game.
Gauff was inspired to pick up a racket by the Williams sisters and for Venus it must have been like facing a teenage version of herself as her opponent fired down serves over 110mph and scampered around the court with her long levers.
Gauff is already a terrific athlete and Williams was simply unable to hit through her. What was most impressive, though, was the way she constructed points, playing close to the lines but rarely too close and using angles to open up the court.
A break for 3-2 set her on the way to the first set without facing a break point and, when Williams double-faulted twice in a row, Gauff, who sat an online science exam at 11pm before her final qualifying match, moved 3-2 ahead in the second.
She seemed to feel the occasion for the first time serving at 4-3, double-faulting to hand back the break, but she forced another break of the Williams serve in the next game to leave herself serving for the match.
A tense game saw Williams save three match points before creating one break point, which Gauff saved with a 108mph second serve. When her fourth opportunity came, the teenager took it, then dropped to the court in disbelief.
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Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, the supposed next generation of men’s tennis, were shock casualties in the first round at Wimbledon.
Novak Djokovic’s potential path to the final looks even clearer after the young guns, both in the defending champion’s half of the draw, fired blanks.
Sixth seed Zverev went down in four sets to qualifier Jiri Vesely, the world number 124.
The 22-year-old slipped at a crucial moment to give away two match points, and then netted the first as Czech Vesely celebrated a surprise 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 triumph.
Zverev, who has endured a poor year so far, admitted his confidence has taken a battering and alluded to issues off the court.
“When I get to the important moments – and I had five or six break points in the fourth set alone – I can’t take any of those,” he said.
“I’m down one break point myself and he takes it immediately, where I miss an easy volley. I didn’t lose this match on tennis. It’s just my confidence is below zero right now.
“The last two days, I would say (were) very rough for me personally. I’m not going to get into details, but I’m just saying. I have to fix that to play well on the court.”
Around 20 minutes later Tsitsipas, having saved two match points in the fourth set, succumbed to the third as he was turfed out 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (8), 6-3 by Italian Thomas Fabbiano.
Zverev and Tsitsipas are supposedly at the head of the pack attempting to chase down Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. On this evidence the big three are still a long way in the lead.
Tsitsipas said: “We’ve seen players my age, many years ago – I would like to name Rafa, Roger – seemed very mature and professional what they were doing. They had consistency from a young age. They always did well, tournament by tournament, without major drops or inconsistency.
“Something that we as the Next Gen players lack, including myself, is this consistency week by week. It’s a week-by-week problem basically, that we cannot adjust to that.”
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Andy Murray is playing doubles at Wimbledon this year, while Ashleigh Barty is looking for back-to-back grand-slam titles.
Here are five talking points ahead of the tournament at SW19.
Changing of the guard overdue
Since Lleyton Hewitt’s win in 2002, the subsequent 16 men’s singles titles have been won by either Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray, and it is not a stranglehold which looks likely to end this year. Murray may be missing but the ‘big three’ remain the ones to beat. The younger generation of Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov, Karen Khachanov, and Daniil Medvedev need to raise their game or watch another familiar face lift the trophy on July 14.
Murray’s back, but not as we know him
When Murray broke down in tears at the Australian Open, fearing his career was close to being ended through injury, the chances of seeing the two-time Wimbledon champion back at the All England Club looked remote to say the least. But five months and one hip operation later, Murray will be competing in the doubles alongside Pierre-Hugues Herbert as he continues his tentative return to action. The spotlight will be on the men’s doubles like never before, especially if he meets brother Jamie along the way. The Scot is also looking for a female partner to play mixed doubles with, but has so far struggled to find one. World number one Barty turned him down, although he has since been inundated with offers and Serena Williams has hinted she would be keen.
Raising the bar
Since the turn of the century only Williams (twice) has doubled up by winning the French Open women’s singles title and then triumphing at Wimbledon. Barty was something of a surprise winner at Roland Garros, claiming her first grand-slam crown, yet the Australian is widely considered to have a game more suited to grass than the clay of Paris. The 23-year-old actually quit tennis to play cricket in 2014 but has rediscovered her love for the sport and will be a major threat.
Home hopes for Konta
With Kyle Edmund struggling for form, Britain’s best hopes of singles success probably lie with Johanna Konta, whose sparkling clay-court season culminated in her run to the semi-finals in Paris. The former world number four has rediscovered her chief weapons, an aggressive service game and devastating hard hitting, which went awry following her run to the last four at Wimbledon in 2017.
Marathon man Is-no more
After South African Kevin Anderson won the second-longest match in Wimbledon history, a six-and-a-half hour semi-final marathon against American John Isner with a final set which lasted almost three hours, it prompted the All England Club to change the rules. From this year, a fifth-set tie-break will be played should the score reach 12-12. It may come as a relief to Isner, who was also involved in the longest match when he beat France’s Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the fifth set of their first-round contest in 2010.