Teenage prodigy Cori Gauff has become the youngest player to reach the Wimbledon’s round after after clawing her way back from a set and 5-2 down to beat Slovenia’s Polona Hercog 3-6 7-6 (9-7) 7-5.
The 15-year-old, ranked 313th in the world, joined women’s big guns Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina in advancing at the All England Club on Friday, but former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki was eliminated.
Gauff had earned a match on Centre Court after capturing the public’s imagination with her giant-killing exploits, including ousting former champion Venus Williams in the first round.
The teenager, who beat former semi-finalist Magdalena Rybarikova in the second round, was roared on by the crowd but found it hard at first to cope with 28-year-old Hercog’s heavy groundstrokes and big serve.
She showed remarkable composure, however, to fight back against the 60th-ranked Slovenian, who failed to convert two match points in the second set.
“I always knew I could come back no matter what the score is, I just went for my shots,” Gauff, nicknamed Coco, said after leaving the court to warm applause.
“The crowd was amazing. Even when I was down match point they were still cheering me on.”
WHAT A COMEBACK 👏
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Next up for the American is a clash with seventh seed Halep, who beat former world No.1 Belarusian Victoria Azarenka 6-3 6-1 in 66 minutes.
The Romanian, who herself began the year as world No.1, has slipped to seventh in the rankings, having reached the last eight only once in the last four majors, but there was plenty to suggest the claycourt specialist is a contender.
“I think was my best match this year. I played really well. I felt actually very confident. I’ve been aggressive all the match, even if I was 3-1 down first set,” Halep said.
Czech third seed Pliskova was pushed by Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei but eventually won their match 6-3 2-6 6-4 to move into the fourth round.
The 27-year-old broke serve late in game eight to move ahead 5-3 before securing the first set with an ace.
“I think I was just too good on the serve. I had a lot of aces,” said Pliskova, who hit 14 service winners.
The former world No.1 will next play unseeded compatriot Karolina Muchova who beat Estonia’s 20th seed Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (9-7) 6-3.
China’s unseeded Zhang Shuai also upset last year’s Australian Open champion Wozniacki in straight sets with a 6-4 6-2 victory to reach the fourth round for the first time in her career.
Eighth seed Svitolina also advanced with a battling 6-3 6-7 (1-7) 6-2 victory over Greece’s Maria Sakkari, needing six match points to win the contest.
Australian singles matches at Wimbledon on Saturday:
Ashleigh Barty v Harriet Dart (GBR), 10pm AEST
John Millman v Sam Querrey (USA), 8pm AEST
Latest women’s results:
S. Halep def. V. Azarenka 6-3, 6-1
S. Zhang def. C. Wozniacki 6-4, 6-2
E Svitolina def. M. Sakkari 6-3, 6-7 (1-7), 6-2
C Gauff def. P. Hercog 6-3, 6-7 (7-9), 5-7
KA Pliskova def. SW Hsieh 6-2, 2-6, 6-4
K Muchova def. A Kontaveit 7-6 (9-7), 6-3
D Yastremska def. V Golubic 7-5, 6-3
P Martic def. D Collins 6-4, 3-6, 6-4
Latest men’s results:
F Verdasco def. T Fabbiano 6-4, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4
G Pella def. K Anderson 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4)
N Djokovic def. H Herkacz 7-5, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, 6-4
R Bautista Agut def. K Khachanov 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1
D Goffin def. D Medvedev 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5
M Raonic def. R Opelka 7-6 (7-1), 6-2, 6-1
B Paire def. J Vesely 5-7, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 7-6 (7-2)