Sport Tennis Schoolgirl turfs idol Venus from Wimbledon
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Schoolgirl turfs idol Venus from Wimbledon

Cori Gauff reacts after defeating Venus Williams. Getty
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Cori Gauff served up the perfect excuse for wagging school on Monday as the 15-year-old American caused one of the biggest shocks in Wimbledon history by dispatching Venus Williams 6-4 6-4 in the first round.

Aged 39, Williams is considered Wimbledon royalty as she has been part of the All England Club family for over two decades, having won the singles title five times – including two before Gauff was even born.

But Gauff, the youngest player to qualify for the main draw in the professional era, was in no mood to play a lady-in-waiting as she made a mockery of the 24-year age difference and 269 ranking spots that separate her from her idol Williams.

Playing a fearless brand of tennis that belied her young age, she bullied Williams into submission.

“I don’t even know how to explain how I feel,” Gauff, who wiped away a tear as she walked off Court One, said moments after her remarkable win.

“I definitely had to tell myself to stay calm, I have never played on a court so big, but I had to remind myself that the lines on the court are the same size, everything around it might be bigger, but the lines are the same and after every point I was just telling myself to stay calm.

“I never thought this would happen, I am literally living my dream right now, and not many get to say that.

“So I am just happy that Wimbledon gave me the opportunity just to play and I obviously never thought it would be this far,” added the teenager, who was given a wildcard into the qualifying tournament.

Before the match, Gauff, known as Coco, had told her Instagram followers: “Two of my teachers found out I played tennis after I made the main draw here.”

If her Florida teachers needed any proof of exactly what she was up to, they only needed to tune into their TVs to see just why Wimbledon was going Coco-crazy on Monday.

A break in the fifth game of the opening set, which included a delectable lob over the statuesque Williams, was enough to win her the first set.

The nerveless display continued in the second set and she sealed victory on her fourth match point when Williams netted a forehand.

“After the match I told her just thank you for everything she did. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her,” Gauff said.

“I was just telling her that she is so inspiring and that I always wanted to tell her that. Even though I met her before, I guess I had the guts to (tell her today).”

The teenager who used to think “it’s weird for people to take pictures of me” had better get used to the spotlight since she was the talk of the town on Monday after beating her idol and five-times champion Venus Williams in the first round.

Not satisfied with pulling off one of the all-time shocks in Wimbledon history, Gauff, who is known as Coco, wasted little time in declaring her long-term goals.

“I want to be the greatest,” she said, echoing the kind of words that became synonymous with boxing icon Muhammad Ali.

The youngest player in the singles draw certainly delivered an almighty knockout punch to floor Williams, who at 39 was the oldest woman in the Wimbledon women’s singles draw.

“I wasn’t surprised that I won. My dad told me that I could do this when I was eight. My goal is to win it (Wimbledon),” the world No.313, who needed a wildcard to play in qualifying, said following her 6-4 6-4 win.

In case anyone thought Gauff was full of hot air on the back of just one win, the great and the good of tennis were ready to back up her predictions.

“She has been raised for greatness and this is just the beginning,” said Tracy Austin, who was just 14 when she first played at Wimbledon.

Seven-times Grand Slam champion John McEnroe was even more vocal in his support.

“If she isn’t No.1 in the world by the time she is 20 I would be absolutely shocked. It was too bad for Venus that she had to play her.”

Williams, who had won four of her seven major titles before Gauff was born, had been looking forward to Monday’s battle on the eve of the match: “I’m so excited. Got ants in my pants.”

It was just too bad that 24 hours later, she was the one left deflated.

“If I went into this match saying, ‘Let’s see how many games I can get against her’, then I most definitely would not have won,” said schoolgirl Gauff, who even completed a science test during her run through the qualifiers.

“My goal was to play my best. My dream was to win. That’s what happened. I think people just kind of limit themselves too much.

“Once you actually get your goal, then it’s like what do you do now? I like to shoot really high. So that way I always have many goals along the road, but that way you have the ultimate goal.”

Playing a fearless brand of tennis that belied her young age, she bullied Williams into submission.

“After the match I told her just thank you for everything she did. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her,” Gauff said.

“I was just telling her that she is so inspiring and that I always wanted to tell her that. Even though I met her before, I guess I had the guts to (tell her today).”

-AAP